Texas Hemp Ban Leads To Legal Showdown

Texas Hemp Manufacturers Sue the State Over “Smokable Hemp” Ban

When Texas lawmakers signed House Bill 1325 in June 2019, things seemed to be going smoothly for hemp users. The bill permits the production, manufacture, retail sale, and inspection of hemp crops and products in the state.

A recent change to the framework of hemp sales in Texas, however, has created a wedge in the hemp industry. The Texas Agriculture Code banned the sale of “smokable” products in August. It does not ban edible goods and topically applied products, but hemp farmers and small business owners are still frustrated with the impact they say this framework has on them – in fact, they’ve filed a lawsuit against the state.

Specifically, four businesses, including hemp manufacturers and retailers, joined to file a lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and its commissioner, John Hellerstedt. The lawsuit aims to stop the DSHS’ ban on the development and sales of smokable hemp products in the state. The plaintiffs claim the ban inhibits their ability to participate in the growing hemp market, and, therefore, keep their jobs and generate tax revenue.

The Texas Hemp Growers, a network of Texan farmers and sellers who would be affected by the ban, also took action.

“This ban is a punitive kick in the teeth to Texas’ small businesses and enterprising farmers,” said Zachary Maxwell, president of the Texas Hemp Growers, in a statement.

Members of the group raised $15,000 for the Texas Hemp Legal Defense Fund, which was created to support legal action like this.

“Texas will forfeit millions in tax revenue to more competitive states by denying the industry full access to this federally legal plant,” Maxwell said.

Texas Monthly noted that CBD was once believed to be a saving grace for hopefuls in the Texas agriculture industry. Some farmers, they said, were “betting that CBD products will save Texas agriculture from the ruinous effects on commodity prices of the ongoing trade war with China.”

Things did not unfold as they had anticipated, though. Hemp was not as profitable as some expected, and with this ban, a profitable outcome would go from unlikely to nearly impossible.

Jax Finkel, the executive director of the Texas arm of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML), spoke to Houston Public Media about the impact a ban like this could have on workers in the hemp industry:

“For some of these businesses, those types of products make up about half of what they’re selling,” he explained. “These are businesses that have been able to stay open during the pandemic because of delivery options and curb-side options. [They’ve] been able to, at least, keep their employees partially, if not fully, employed.”