Last night, Governor Abbot signed Texas HB 1325 (or, “Bill”) into law. HB 1325 establishes a hemp growth program here in Texas and governs manufacture and retail sale of hemp and hemp-derivative products. Because the Bill received the required vote threshold, it became effective immediately, making June 10, 2019, a historic date for Texas hemp and a celebratory evening for our hemp lawyers. Below, we provide a brief overview of the Bill’s requirements for a Texas hemp grower’s license.
Before anyone can begin growing hemp in Texas by planting certified seed, Texas must submit a plan for approval, pursuant to the requirements of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”), to the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”). Unfortunately, the USDA has not yet released the guidelines under which states and tribal plans may submit applications for growth programs under the 2018 Farm Bill. The USDA is currently working on draft regulations and has announced that it expects to issue plan submission guidelines by fall of 2019.
Once the USDA provides guidance to the states on how to apply for hemp-growth plan approval, the State of Texas will submit a plan to the USDA for approval. After approval, the Texas Department of Agriculture will be responsible for adopting the rules and regulations that govern Texas’ hemp growth program and will be responsible for the application form for a hemp grower’s license. Currently, the Texas Department of Agriculture is aiming to see the first hemp crops planted in the spring of 2020. Local municipalities will not be permitted to interfere in hemp growth, as the Bill reserves regulatory authority of the hemp growth program to the State and expressly instructs local municipalities that they may not interfere with the cultivation, handling, transportation, or sale of hemp in Texas.
Hemp Grower’s License
If you intend to grow hemp or to “handle” hemp in Texas, you will need a hemp grower’s license. The license fee is not to exceed $100 and the Texas Department of Agriculture will be responsible adopting and processing application forms. HB1325 requires that the application be accompanied by:
- A legal description of the location on which the hemp will be handled or cultivated and the GPS coordinates of the location;
- Written consent from the applicant or from the land owner (if not the applicant) allowing the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Public Safety, and any state or local law enforcement agency to enter the location for a physical inspection or to ensure compliance with the hemp growth program; and
- An application fee.
The Department of Agriculture will certainly add to the current application requirements of the Bill.
Once the hemp grower’s license application is submitted, the Department is required to issue a license to a qualified applicant no later than sixty (60) days after it receives the completed application. Once granted, the hemp grower’s license has a term of one year and is eligible for renewal thereafter.
Persons convicted of a felony relating to controlled substances are ineligible to apply within ten years of the date of their conviction. If a hemp grower is convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance while holding a license, their hemp grower’s license is subject to revocation. Supplying false information on a growth application may also result in denial of the application and subsequent ineligibility.
Hemp Testing Requirements
Hemp crop testing may be performed by the Department of Agriculture, an institution of higher education, or an independent testing laboratory. To qualify for testing, the laboratory must be accredited under ISO/IEC 17025 or other comparable standard. License holders may not use their own laboratories for state testing unless the license holder has no ownership in the laboratory or less than a ten (10) percent ownership interest if the laboratory is a publicly traded company.
Hemp growers may not harvest their hemp crop until it has been submitted for mandatory pre-harvest testing. Twenty days before the grower anticipates harvest, he or she must notify the Department of Agriculture. A representative sample of the hemp crop will be taken by the Department of Agriculture or by a qualified testing laboratory. The sample will be tested to ensure compliance with the delata-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) threshold of .3% on a dry weight basis. Cuttings must be taken from at least five plants throughout the growth plot. The Department of Agriculture will prescribe how far apart these cuttings must be in the field in the forthcoming hemp program regulations. The cuttings will then be homogenized and the homogenized material is submitted for THC testing.
If the pre-harvest test results show that the crop is “hot” (i.e. it exceeds the .3% THC threshold), the hemp grower is allowed one single post-harvest test to determine if the post-harvest crop is compliant. In the event that the hemp harvest still tests hot, the license holder must dispose of or destroy the plants unless the Department determines that the higher THC concentration was reached solely as result of negligence. In that event, the license holder may trim the plants until the concentration of the plants is not more than .3% THC on a dry weight basis or process the plants into fiber with a THC concentration of not more than .3% on a dry weight basis.
Our office represents numerous hemp cultivators who are preparing for hemp growth in Texas. For assistance with a hemp grower’s license applications or to speak to one of our hemp lawyers, please contact our office.