Trial Plots

The state of Texas is moving forward with hemp production efforts, but is still in the early stages. No test plots are being grown here, but are under development elsewhere to discover the best ways to grow the multi-use crop. The key will be to keep it below the mandated .03 THC level to allow it to be legally harvested.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture enacted the Interim Final Rule, which regulates U.S. hemp production, but local farmers still wait for growing the crop to be legalized in Texas.

Licensing, tracking, testing procedures and requirements for hemp producers are outlined in the Interim Final Rule, including how to test the crop’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that gives psychoactive effects, levels to ensure they’re lower than 0.3 percent. The rule was enacted on Oct 31 and is effective until Nov. 1, 2021.

The USDA’s Final Interim Rule builds on the 2018 Farm Bill, which directed the USDA to create a national framework of regulation for hemp production.

Cannabidiol (CBD), which is a lipid derived from hemp, can be legally bought across the U.S., while industrial hemp production is illegal in 41 states, including Texas, as of February.

There is interest in hemp production in this county, every county in this state and every state in the country, Wharton County Ag Extension Agent Corrie Bowen said.

Three medicinal cannabis producers operate in this state, according to Bowen, but the Texas government has not yet legalized industrial hemp production.

Steps toward legalizing Texas hemp production have been completed, but a few remain. The Texas Department of Agriculture needs to submit a plan to the governor, attorney general and USDA. If this plan is approved, TDA can then issue hemp growing licenses to Texans.

Bowen estimates industrial hemp production will be legalized by 2020.

“We’re about halfway there,” Bowen said.

CBD has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for two types of epilepsy. CBD’s effects on other conditions, such as anxiety, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia are still being studied, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Before health claims for CBD can legally be promoted in Texas, more needs to happen with state hemp legislation, Bowen said.

Hemp was grown legally in Texas until 1937, when it became taboo along with marijuana due to the Marijuana Tax Act.

“We’re learning all over again,” Bowen said.

To conduct hemp research, AgriLife travels out of state, Bowen said, as hemp production is not yet legalized in Texas, even for analytical purposes. “Research is much needed,” Bowen said. “Research is so important to provide success in this new emerging industry for Texas.”

Public comments on the Interim Final Rule will be accepted until Dec. 30, and can be submitted at Regulations.gov, faxed to (202) 720-8938 or mailed to Docket Clerk, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237.

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