The Texas House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock unanimously approved a bill Tuesday to establish a commercial hemp farming program in Texas. It will now advance to the House Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote of the full House.
The bipartisan bill, HB 1325, is sponsored by Reps. Tracy King (D-Batesville), Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), and Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), along with cosponsors Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville), Stan Lambert (R-Abilene) and James White (R-Hillister).
In summary, HB 1325:
amends state criminal laws and establishes regulations to allow for and govern the cultivation, manufacture, and sale of hemp and hemp products;
tasks the Texas Department of Agriculture with developing a hemp production plan to submit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will establish Texas as the primary regulatory authority over hemp in the state; and
establishes a licensing process for hemp farmers and creates rules governing testing, processing, packaging, labeling, and quality control, as well as safety regulations for consumable products that will be made and sold in Texas.
"We applaud the committee members for advancing this commonsense legislation and hope the full House will join them in supporting it," said Shawn Hauser, a leader of the American Hemp Campaign, who testified in favor of HB 1325 at the committee's April 1 hearing. "By enacting hemp legislation this year, Texas will be among the first states to capitalize on this commodity that just recently became legal under federal law. Given its size, agricultural resources, and business-friendly environment, it would quickly become a national leader in the emerging U.S. hemp industry."
Hauser, a Texas native and University of Texas at Austin alumna, chairs the Hemp Practice Group at Vicente Sederberg LLC and was lead author of the American Hemp Campaign's model hemp production plan and guide to the 2018 farm bill. The farm bill, which was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in December, lifted the federal government's prohibition on hemp farming.
"The U.S. market for hemp and hemp-related products is growing rapidly," Hauser said. "We may not see another new cash crop like this for decades. It would be a huge boon for Texas farmers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs."
In January, the committee released an interim report recommending lawmakers enact legislation this year to legalize and regulate commercial hemp farming in Texas, stating it "could be beneficial for Texas farmers, the Texas economy, the U.S. economy, and the environment." The committee unanimously approved hemp legislation last session (HB 3587), but it was never scheduled for a vote on the House floor despite broad support from the Texas farming industry, the report noted.