Texas THC Lawyer

congress capitol marijuana


The House of Representatives passed a standalone marijuana reform bill for the first time in history on Wednesday. The chamber advanced the legislation—which would protect banks that service the cannabis industry from being penalized by federal regulators—in a vote of 321-103. All but one Democrat voted in favor of the bill. Republicans were virtually split, with 91 voting for the legislation and 102 opposing it. This is the first standalone marijuana reform bill to ever clear the House. The Bill must now be taken up in the Senate and passed before it can proceed to the President to be signed into law. 

Ever since the Governor signed HB 1325 into law, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies throughout the state have be scrambling to address the fact that crime labs are not properly equipped to test hemp. Marijuana and hemp belong to the same plant family, cannabis sativa, and are virtually identical.  Under previous Texas law, it was a crime to possess any amount of THC, whether it came in the form of hemp or marijuana.  Under the new law, hemp products that contain .3% THC or less, and meet other requirements under HB 1325, are now legal.  

The problem is that crime labs throughout the State lack the proper testing instruments necessary to measure the percentage of THC in suspect marijuana seized by law enforcement. Confronted with this problem, some counties have declined to prosecute marijuana cases until such time as proper testing procedures can be put in place.  District attorneys in Harris, Tarrant, Bexar and Dallas counties have all announced changes to the way their offices will handle marijuana possession, with many counties opting to no longer prosecute for small amounts. 

Smith County District Attorney, Jacob Putman, announced today that his office will continue to prosecute these cases. Putman told area law enforcement officers during the monthly Smith County Peace Officers Association luncheon that the Department of Public Safety estimates it will take about 10 months to equip their laboratories with what they need to determine the THC content of samples. In the meantime, DA Putman announced that his office will continue to prosecute marijuana cases. He added that “Some larger counties say they can’t. I believe that I can, but we are going to have to wait for some of these labs to get up and running.” Although “samples must be sent to a lab for analysis, Putman is confident they will be able to do so within a year, which is under the statute of limitations of two years for marijuana possession charges.” It now remains to be seen how criminal defense lawyers will respond to this policy as it applies to pending marijuana cases in Smith County. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services has added a Hemp Program link ot its website, but the link offers little guidenace for CBD consumers and retailers. Below is a summary. 

What is a consumable hemp product?

A consumable hemp product is a food, drug, device, or cosmetic that contains industrial hemp or hemp-derived cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD). These products may not contain more than 0.3 percent concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

What is DSHS required to do under HB 1325?

When the submitted TDA state plan is approved by USDA, HB 1325 requires DSHS to: 

  • Establish a manufacturing licensure program for consumable hemp products. 
  • Create a registration process for retailers selling consumable hemp products containing CBD. 
  • Work with DPS on random testing for consumable hemp products containing CBD sold at retail. Random testing will not occur until the retail registration process is established after the TDA state plan approval. 

Implementation of HB 1325 will involve the development of rules, which will include a public input process. While DSHS rules development will begin before the TDA plan is approved, final rules cannot be completed until after the TDA state plan approval. Therefore, DSHS may only begin issuing licenses and accepting registrations after TDA's plan is approved by USDA and DSHS adopts rules consistent with the TDA approved plan. The approved plan may impact the implementation of HB 1325, including rules development.

What is DSHS’ role?

DSHS has oversight of food, drug, cosmetics and dietary supplement manufacturers, distributors and retailers, including those that may use or market hemp or cannabidiol (CBD) as an ingredient in those products. Local jurisdictions may also regulate retail sales of food, drugs, cosmetics and dietary supplements, but may not prohibit the sale of consumable hemp products.

DSHS does not regulate an individual’s private possession or private use of any food, drug, cosmetic product or dietary supplement. Neither does DSHS administer the  Texas Compassionate Use Act

Can I manufacture consumable hemp products?

The manufacturing license for consumable hemp will not be available until the USDA approves Texas’ hemp plan. That plan is under development by TDA. State licensing rules and requirements relating to the manufacture of consumable hemp products may only be proposed after the approval of the plan by the USDA. 

Until the plan is approved and rules are in place, current law applies. Only ingredients on the FDA’s Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) list or otherwise federally approved may be used in foods, drugs, cosmetics and dietary supplements. There are currently three hemp-derived products on the GRAS list; hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein and hemp seed oil. Manufacturers of these products are governed by Health and Safety Code Chapter 431. Manufacturers interested in producing consumable hemp products not containing CBD may currently apply for a DSHS food manufacturer license.

Can I sell consumable hemp products at retail now?

Yes, Section 11 of HB 1325 allows for existing retailers to possess, transport or sell consumable hemp products that become part of the retailers’ inventory prior to the effective date of DSHS rules resulting from HB 1325. The retailer must be licensed as currently required by law. Retailers selling consumable hemp products must ensure the product is safe for consumption by being free of heavy metals, pesticides, harmful microorganisms or residual solvents. Additionally, consumable hemp products sold must not contain more than 0.3 percent THC. 

During routine inspection or complaint investigations, DSHS, within its statutory authority, may detain products, including dietary supplements, that are labeled as or contain hemp, including CBD, and that make unproven health claims, such as preventing, diagnosing, treating and/or curing a health or medical condition. Products that are being manufactured or handled in a manner that creates a health hazard for people who may use it may also be detained. 

Note: HB 1325 contains limitations regarding retail sales of out-of-state consumable hemp products. The products must be processed or manufactured in another state in compliance with:

  1. that state or jurisdiction’s plan approved by the USDA;
  2. in the absence of a state submitted plan, a plan established by the USDA; or,
  3. the laws of that state or jurisdiction if the products are tested in compliance with, or similar to those set out in Section 443.151 of HB 1325.

Upon approval of the Texas state hemp plan by USDA, DSHS will establish a process to register retailers selling consumable hemp products containing CBD. At that time, existing retailers selling consumable hemp products containing CBD and new retailers wishing to sell these products will be required to register with DSHS.

What is the federal status of CBD?

Currently, CBD is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a prescription drug. Per federal law, prescription drugs cannot be added to foods, cosmetics or dietary supplements. 

Because the FDA also has authority to oversee food, cosmetics and dietary supplements, the FDA may take actions on its own relating to the ingredients in foods, drugs, cosmetics and dietary supplements.

What should a consumer know?

CBD is currently available as an FDA-approved prescription drug. DSHS does not regulate an individual’s private possession or private use of any food, drug, cosmetic product or dietary supplement, and HB 1325 will not change those parameters. Questions regarding medicinal use of consumable hemp products (including CBD) should be directed to a physician.



texas republicans come out support marijuana decriminalization hero

On Monday, June 10, 2019, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law HB 1325 relating to the production and regulation of hemp. The Act immediately went into effect after Governor Abbott signed it because it received at least two-thirds “yes” votes in both the Texas State House and the Texas State Senate. Now that hemp is “legal” in Texas, many unanswered questions remain as to how the Act will be implemented. 

Below is a short summary of some critical sections of HB 1325. This short summary is by no means an exhaustive list of all the requirements set forth under the Act. It is therefore highly recommended that you either carefully read the Act or seek out the advice of a qualified lawyer to determine whether you are acting in compliance with the Texas’ new hemp law.  Here are some of the key provisions: 

  1. HB 1325 defines “hemp” asCannabis sativa L.(any part of that plant, including the seeds of the plant and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol  (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis).
  2. The Act amended Schedules I through V of Sections 481.002(5) and (26) of the Texas Health and Safety Code to remove hemp from the list of controlled substances. Hemp that falls within the definition set forth in the Act is therefore no longer classified as controlled substance and punishable as a felony offense under Texas law. 
  3. To accomplish this declassification, Texas also amended the definition of “marihuana,” under § 481.002 (26), to exclude “hemp, as that term is defined by Section 121.001, Agriculture Code.” This means that hemp, which is sourced in compliance with the Act and has a THC level of no more than 0.3, is no longer subject to criminal prosecution in Texas. 
  1. As discussed below, that does not mean that you can now run out and buy hemp seeds and start planting them in the ground. There is an implementation process that must begin before hemp can legally be planted and cultivated in Texas. 
  1. 443.204(3) of the Act prohibits smokable hemp products from being processed or manufactured. Sec. 443.001(11) defines “smoking” as “burning or igniting a substance and inhaling the smoke or heating a substance and inhaling the resulting vapor or aerosol. Although the Act itself does not address the retail sale of such products, this section suggests that Texas may later impose regulations under the catch-all regulation provisions of Sec. 121.004 that prohibit the sale or possession of smokable hemp in in either liquid or herb form. Stay tuned for more on this.
  1. Now that the Act is law, the Texas Department of Agriculture has 90 days from its effective date to submit a plan for hemp cultivation and processing to the USDA for approval. Once that plan is approved, the Texas Department of Agriculture has 30 days (or “as soon as practicable” thereafter) to “fully implement the plan”. That means the Texas Department of Agriculture must “as soon as practicable” implement procedures to guide Texas farmers on how to obtain a license to grow hemp. A license MUST be obtained to legally grow hemp in Texas. Until such a plan and licensing procedure is approved and implemented by the Texas Department of Agriculture, hemp cannot be cultivated or handled in Texas. Sec. 443.101 states that “[a] person may not process hemp or manufacture a consumable hemp product in this state unless the person holds a license under this subchapter.”
  1. In addition, consumable hemp products containing cannabidiols (i.e., CBD oils), which are sourced in compliance this Act and contain less than 0.3% THC, now appear to be legal in Texas. Whether or not existing consumable hemp products in the marketplace are in compliance with the Act, however, requires a very careful reading of HB 1325. That’s because as noted below, the Act imposes new packaging and labeling requirements on consumable hemp products.  443.2025 states that “[a] person may not sell consumable hemp products containing cannabidiol [CBD] at retail in this state unless the person registers with the department each location owned, operated, or controlled by the person at which those products are sold.”  Sec. 443.205 of the Act lists the packaging and labeling requirements for hemp-derived products. Sec. 443.205(6) requires the label to certify that the hemp-derived product contains a THC concentration of nor more than 0.3. Sec. 443.206 of the Act requires that the sale of out-of-state consumable hemp products must be in compliance with USDA hemp standards and those set forth under Sec. 443.151 of the Act. If there is any doubt as to whether a CBD product is in compliance, it is best to seek out the advice of competent and experienced legal counsel.
  1. In order to avoid arbitrary enforcement of hemp laws across the state, Section 122.002 prohibits any municipality, county, or other political subdivision in the state from enacting or enforcing any rule, ordinance, resolution or other regulation that prohibits the “cultivation, handling, transportation, or sale of hemp as authorized by this chapter.” This will likely protect farmers and landowners from local rules and zoning ordinances aimed at preventing hemp from being grown. It remains to be seen, however, whether this provision will also protect consumable hemp retailers from local regulation. 
  1. The Act also provides some guidance to retailers concerning CBD inventory. Section 11 of the Act notes that “[n]otwithstanding Chapter 443, … a retailer may possess, transport, or sell a consumable hemp product, as defined by Section 443.001, … that becomes part of the retailer’s inventory before rules under Section 443.051 … become effective UNLESS the product: (1) is unsafe for consumption based on the presence or quantity of heavy metals, pesticides, harmful microorganisms, or residual solvents;” or (2) has a THC level of more than 0.3 percent. 
  1. Section 12 of the Act adds that, “[n]otwithstanding Section 443.2025, … a person is not required to register a location to sell a consumable hemp product containing cannabidiol at retail in this state before the 60thday after the date the Department of State Health Services begins issuing registrations.” This provision suggests that there is a 60-day grace period to register a retail location after the Department “begins” issuing registrations. It will of course be the responsibility of the merchant to know when that period “begins” and when that 60-day clock starts ticking. It is currently unclear how the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas DPS will regulate and enforce the retail sale of CBD oils and other consumable hemp products. It would therefore be best to consult an attorney who has a working knowledge of the new Texas hemp law and the State’s proposed implementation process in order to avoid possible civil or criminal penalties. 

In closing, the Texas Hemp Act presents exciting opportunities for Texas retailers, consumers and farmers. It is unclear, however, how the Texas Health, DPS and Agriculture Departments will address the rule-making, licensing and compliance sides of the Act. If would like to receive further updates on HB 1325, including its implantation or enforcement, please subscribe to the Texas THC Lawyer Blog.

On June 10, 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 1325 into law, allowing Texas farmers to grow hemp commercially and making Texas the 45th state to approve hemp farming. The bill, which passed Texas House and Senate unanimously, will allow a state regulated hemp program for Texas farmers. The Texas Department of Agriculture will be working on regulations in time for the 2020 growing season. The bill next requires the Texas Department of Agriculture to submit a plan to the United States Department of Agriculture outlining the state’s plan for monitoring and regulating the production of hemp.

Representative Tracy King’s HB 1325, a bill that will create a regulatory/licensing infrastructure so Texas farmers can grow hemp, has been placed on the calendar for discussion on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019. So far, this hemp legislation has moved through each stage of the process with unanimous support. Follow this link for live feed to Senate discussion.

HB 3025 (Texas Hemp Bill) is set for a hearing in the Texas State Senate! The Senate has now scheduled their hearing for Tuesday, May 7th. Full Bill Overview.