Texas House of Representatives Passes Bills to Expand Medical Marijuana Program and Reduce Marijuana Possession Penalties

On April 29, 2021, the Texas House of Representatives approved Texas House Bill 1535 (“HB 1535”), a bill that would expand Texas’ medical cannabis program. The Senate must now pass this bill before it can be signed into law and further advance Texas’ marijuana reform legislation. On April 30, 202, Texas House Bill 441 (“HB 441”) was also passed by the Texas House of Representatives; however, this bill faces an uphill climb in the Senate. If HB 441 is passed by the Senate and signed into law, this bill would reduce the criminal penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana. These two bills indicate significant progress in Texas cannabis legislation but still face an uncertain fate in the Senate. Below, we break down what these reform bills mean for the marijuana community in Texas. 

Ritter Spencer, PLLCTexas House of Representatives Passes Bills to Expand Medical Marijuana Program and Reduce Marijuana Possession Penalties
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Further Expansion of Texas’ Compassionate Use Program with H.B. 1535 in 2021

After establishing the Texas Compassionate Use Program in 2015 and augmenting it in 2019, Rep. Stephanie Klick (R) has once again initiated expanding the program with an incremental approach. With several beneficial provisions, this bill will potentially be the most effective and favorable legislation regarding medical marijuana reform in Texas. Although there are more comprehensive medical marijuana bills in other states, H.B. 1535 presents a significant opportunity for the Texas cannabis community. 

Ritter Spencer, PLLCFurther Expansion of Texas’ Compassionate Use Program with H.B. 1535 in 2021
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Understanding Texas’s Compassionate-Use Program

In 2015, the Texas Compassionate Use Act, Senate Bill 339, was enacted, requiring the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) to create a secure registry for qualified physicians to treat patients suffering from a limited list of medical conditions, such as ALS and intractable epilepsy, with low-THC cannabis. In 2019, the Texas Legislature expanded the Texas Compassionate Use Program (“TCUP”) via House Bill 3703 to include additional medical conditions, e.g., incurable neurodegenerative diseases, and physician specialties in which low-THC cannabis can be prescribed. Moreover, the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (“CURT”) has been updated in accordance with the expanded TCUP to allow for a simpler process for physicians to register and prescribe low-THC cannabis to their patients. 

Ritter Spencer, PLLCUnderstanding Texas’s Compassionate-Use Program
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The Smokable Hemp Ban in Texas is Enjoined Until 2021

In June of 2019, the state of Texas passed HB 1325, which, in part, authorizes and directs the Texas Department of State Health Services (“DSHS”) to enact rules regarding the processing and manufacturing of smokable hemp products. See Tex. Health & Safety Code § 443.204(4). In August of 2020, DSHS banned the processing, manufacturing, distribution, and retail sale of smokable hemp products throughout the state of Texas. See Tex. Admin. Code § 300.104. With its excessive regulations, DSHS essentially stifled the smokable hemp market in Texas, forcing existing companies, such as Crown Distributing LLC (“Crown”), to move their businesses out of state.

Ritter Spencer, PLLCThe Smokable Hemp Ban in Texas is Enjoined Until 2021
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The Growing Market of Smokable Hemp and Its Legal Obstacles

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”) established that hemp is to be treated similarly to other legal agricultural commodities and traded in standard interstate commerce as a raw material. However, the 2018 Farm Bill governs only state production programs and specifically permits states to enact more stringent regulations than those contained in the Bill. As a result, legal hemp has facilitated the emergence of a wide array of consumer products and uses. Specifically, smokable hemp has made a significant presence in the cannabis and hemp markets and continues to grow despite the increasing legality of other forms of cannabis that often include higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”). Below, we discuss the smokable hemp industry and the legal challenges it faces as it comes to fruition. 

Ritter Spencer, PLLCThe Growing Market of Smokable Hemp and Its Legal Obstacles
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Ritter Spencer Files Lawsuit Challenging Smokable Hemp Bans in Texas

Yesterday, our office filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services (“DSHS”) on behalf of our client, Crown Distributing LLC (“Crown”), challenging the smokable hemp bans in Texas. A copy of our filed Petition can be accessed here.

Ritter Spencer, PLLCRitter Spencer Files Lawsuit Challenging Smokable Hemp Bans in Texas
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DSHS Proposed Rules

On June 10, 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 1325, legislation pertaining to hemp growth and consumable hemp products, into law in the state of Texas. To conform with Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 443, as amended by HB 1325, Texas Department of State Health Services (“DSHS”) has published its proposed rules to govern the Texas consumable hemp program (the “DSHS Proposed Rules”) in the Texas Register. Under the DSHS Proposed Rules, a “consumable hemp product” is defined as 

Ritter Spencer, PLLCDSHS Proposed Rules
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4 Things to Know About Growing Hemp

Under the Final Interim USDA Hemp Production plan, several rules, requirements, and regulations pave the way for those looking to start a legal hemp farm after approval of their relevant State’s hemp-growth plan. Below, we’ve compiled four fundamentals to growing hemp, including hemp licensing, growing conditions, testing, and record-keeping, to help ensure compliance and facilitate a legal operation.  

Ritter Spencer, PLLC4 Things to Know About Growing Hemp
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USDA Hemp Production Plan Part III: Compliance, Violations, and Recordkeeping

By: Paul Stevenson

After learning the licensing requirements in Part I of this Series and the complex rules and regulations on the sampling and testing of hemp in Part II, it is now time to turn our attention to the USDA plan’s matters of compliance, violations, license suspension and revocation, and mandatory recordkeeping.

As a hemp producer, if you violate the USDA plan, it is important not to panic. Instead, focus on remedying this situation by complying with the corrective action plan or other enforcement actions imposed by USDA. 

Ritter Spencer, PLLCUSDA Hemp Production Plan Part III: Compliance, Violations, and Recordkeeping
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