Farmers Eager To Grow Hemp But They Need Lawmakers To Clear The Legal Ground First

Apr 8, 2019
Originally published on April 4, 2019 5:48 pm

The non-psychoactive component of marijuana is the latest craze in alternative medicine. Even Walgreens and CVS plan to sell CBD products. But there's one group that has yet to cash in on the CBD fever: Texas farmers.

Late last year, Congress opened the door to CBD and other hemp-derived products when it legalized industrial hemp.

But in order for farmers to grow it, states need to set up a system for regulating the industry. Forty-two states have already done so over the past three months, and Texas farmers are pushing for state lawmakers to do the same.

Eric Herm made the trip from family’s cotton farm in Lubbock to the Capitol to show his support for a bill that would allow him to grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity.

“You know if we make a hundred dollars an acre a year where we farm, that’s a good year for us, whereas the predictions are three to six hundred dollars an acre for hemp on the lower end,” Herm said.

Herm said there once was a dark cloud that hung over the idea of farming hemp, but now many farmers have no problem with it.

“There’s not a week that goes by here since this new year that I don’t have 10 to 12 guys every week ask me, ‘What’s happening with hemp, when are we going to get to grow hemp?’ Five years ago, even two years ago, no one was talking about it. But now more farmers have educated themselves and made themselves aware of the differences between hemp and marijuana,” Herm said.

And that grassroots-support only encourages lawmakers like State Rep. Tracy King. He’s a Democrat from Zavala County and one of six authors of legislation aimed at allowing hemp to be grown in the state and regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

King said hemp is one of the most versatile crops in a global market.

“There’s certainly some viable uses in the construction industry for hemp for the fiber, hemp fiber and other products that come out of the hemp plant. You know, you can use the entire plant in some type of process with hemp,” King said.

And of course, there’s CBD oil.

In recent years, shops selling everything from candies infused with CBD to the bottles of the oil itself have cropped up throughout Texas; even pet stores now carry CBD-infused pet treats.

Gerald Gabbert is general manager of Alamo Botanicals in New Braunfels and San Antonio. Gabbert described the typical interaction he might have with a customer seeking CBD for relief.

“As far as dealing with the symptoms, we can only alleviate those types of things but that really is dependent on a few factors. So I will just give you an example: someone that has fibromyalgia, a good starting dose would be between 500 mgs to 1000 mgs of hemp-derived CBD isolate-only, but it’s just a matter of anecdotal research on my own end,” Gabbert said.

CBD oil is also produced under the state’s medical marijuana program. It has a slightly higher concentration of THC, the psychoactive element of the plant. It has 0.5% compared to the 0.3% limit that hemp cannot exceed.

A big difference is that the three dispensaries set up under the state medical marijuana program can also grow their own plants, whereas hemp businesses have to import it from out of state.

Morris Denton is CEO and owner of one of those dispensaries, Compassionate Cultivation in Austin. He supports farmers growing it in Texas, but he wants the hemp crops and collected oil to be tested and regulated in the same way medical marijuana is regulated.

“This isn’t just about letting Texas farmers be able to produce a cash-crop. You also have to look at the production, going through the extraction-process, the refining-process, the actual final product and then the testing component to ensure that it doesn’t contain contaminants, and that it is what it says it is on the label,” Denton said.

But in order for that to happen, lawmakers first need to clear a legislative path so that farmers can actually begin growing it.

Ryan Poppe can be reached at RPoppe@TPR.org and on Twitter at @RyanPoppe1.

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