HB 1325: Hemp Growth in Texas; Part I: Timing

Yesterday, the Texas House of Representatives took a historic voice vote on HB1325 (the “Bill”).  HB1325 is an act which, if passed, will permit growth of hemp as an agricultural commodity in Texas and will allow sale of hemp products in Texas. At the voice vote, Representative King offered a floor amendment making minor changes to the Bill’s text, which was passed. Today, the House entered its formal vote for passage of HB1325.

As hemp lawyers in Texas, we have unfortunately already seen misinformation about this Bill circulated. In particular, we have seen online postings stating that it is now legal to grow hemp in Texas. This is simply not true and you risk criminal prosecution if you begin hemp growth now. Over the next few days, we will be reviewing the Bill’s implementation timeline for Texas’ hemp growth program and how the Bill addresses hemp products.

What is HB1325?

HB 1325 is entitled “[a]n Act relating to the production and regulation of hemp and hemp products made from hemp; requiring authorization to produce hemp; authorizing penalties; authorizing fees.” HB1325 recognizes that hemp is a viable agricultural commodity for the state of Texas and the Bill would permit growth of hemp in Texas by growers operating under an approved plan. The Bill would also permit the possession, sale, and consumption of certain hemp products that meet the requirements outlined in the Bill.

What’s Next for HB 1325?

Now that the House of Representatives has formally passed the Bill today, the Bill will head to the Texas Senate for vote on the Senate floor. Just like the House, the Senate may amend or alter the Bill before vote. If the Senate passes HB1325, the Bill heads to Governor Abbot for signature.

Can I Grow Hemp in Texas Now?

Not yet. HB1325 is still a pending Bill and has yet to become law in Texas. One important provision of HB1325 provides that if the Bill receives two-thirds vote in the House and two-thirds vote in the Senate, it becomes immediately effective upon signature into law. If the requisite two-thirds votes are not obtained, the Bill’s effective date would be September 1, 2019. The earlier the effective date, the earlier certain timelines enumerated in the Bill begin.

Can I Grow Hemp on September 1, 2019?

No. After the Bill’s effective date, the Texas Department of Agriculture is required to submit a state plan for hemp growth to the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) within ninety (90) days. However, the USDA is still working on its own guidelines for state plan submission and for approval of state plans. Currently, no state is operating under a grant of approval from the 2018 Farm Bill. Current growers were approved under a plan submitted pursuant to the prior 2014 Farm Bill. No one may grow here in the State of Texas until the USDA approves the state plan submitted by the state of Texas pursuant to 7 U.S.C. 1639p (2018 Farm Bill’s requirements for state plans).

Assuming the USDA approves Texas’ plan for hemp growth once submitted, the Texas Department of Agriculture has until January 1, 2020, to adopt the rules and regulations that will govern Texas’ hemp growth program. After these rules are adopted and promulgated, it is only then that the deadline for the  Texas Department of Agriculture to begin authorizing participation in the state hemp program begins and the Department must begin authorizations no later than thirty (30) days after January 1, 2020.

What Can I do Now?

One of the most meaningful actions you can take now is to contact your Texas Senator. The House vote on the Bill received the requisite two-thirds vote for immediate effectiveness. Now, the Texas Senate will be voting on this Bill soon. If a two-thirds majority vote is achieved in the Senate, HB1325 will become effective on the date that it is signed into law, in lieu of a September 1, 2019, effective date.