While the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the agriculture industry and local producers, it has not dampened Texans’ interest in growing hemp, officials say.

“COVID-19 has not reduced the number of applications for hemp production licenses,” Texas Department of Agriculture Communications Officer Maddison Jaureguito said. “For TDA, business has been as usual.”

Texas hemp production was legalized more than one year ago – in December, 2018 – but producers were not able to apply for a license to grow the crop until March 16 of this year. At the same time the application opened, the coronavirus outbreak worsened in the nation.

“At this point in time, it does not look like COVID-19 will impact the future of Texas hemp production,” Jaureguito said. “However, hemp processing may see future economic impacts from COVID-19 due to the reduced financial availability of investments in processing.”

State officials had to follow several steps before opening the licensing application, including creating growing guidelines and receiving USDA approval.

Growers are required to obtain a license and a $100 per lot permit and must register the crop locations. To receive a license, growers cannot have a felony involving controlled substances within the last 10 years.

Commercial hemp production is legal in 46 states, and U.S. hemp producers were licensed for 511,442 acres, as of September, 2019, according to Forbes.

Currently, federally backed crop insurance is not available for Texas hemp producers.

“Industrial hemp production is an opportunity for Texas farmers to expand their operations and grow alternative crops,” Jaureguito said. “Hemp offers Texas farmers a great new opportunity, but with every promise of high profit comes the reality of high risk.”

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that gives psychoactive effects, levels in hemp must be lower than 0.3 percent. Hemp was grown legally in Texas until 1937, when it became taboo along with marijuana due to the Marijuana Tax Act.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a lipid derived from hemp, can be legally bought across the U.S. CBD has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for two types of epilepsy. Its effects on other conditions are still being studied.

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