The Texas House last week gave a unanimous green light to House Bill 1325, which would allow our farmers to legally grow industrial hemp — a move we share in applauding as a victory for our state economy. The bill passed with a 144-0 vote and now heads to the Texas Senate for deliberation.

A cousin of the marijuana plant, hemp is the less-fun relative: It might serve as the textile for the tablecloth at family gatherings, but it won’t be the one that has dabblers doubled-over giggling while raiding the fridge for leftovers in the middle of the night. That’s because hemp contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC.

While hemp-based products that contain no THC — like clothing, topical products and twine — are legal in Texas, the plant cannot be legally grown here, leaving our businesses to source it from other states.

That’s all about to change, which is great news for Texas farmers.

“You just watch. There is going to be more hemp grown (in Texas) than we could ever process,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller told a Dallas TV station. And that’s already good news for East Texas, as a 40-acre hemp processing facility recently announced plans to break ground right in our own backyard.

Cherokee Hemp Company, which is positioning itself as “the first processing facility for Texas’ emerging hemp market,” is setting up shop in Cherokee County. Company officials plan to be able to process 10,000 acres of hemp by 2022, according to a press release.

The facility will be located on 40 acres in rural East Texas, bringing much-needed jobs into the area for processing Texas’ soon-to-be newest cash crop.

It’s not clear just how much money hemp will bring to Texas if farmers are allowed to grow it. But during a hearing on HB 1325 earlier this month, Jeff Lake, who works with a company that partakes in Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program, told the panel of lawmakers that his company, Elemental Processing, pays from $3,000 to $5,000, plus a bonus, for an acre of hemp compared with $350 to $400 for an acre of corn in a good year, according to a recent Texas Tribune article.

The bill would remove hemp from Texas’ controlled substance list and establish a program outlining guidelines for cultivation. It also would legalize hemp-derived extracts like CBD oil as long as they contain no more than 0.3% THC.

Currently, CBD oil is illegal in Texas, except for those suffering from intractable epilepsy who have a prescription to purchase it. If this leaves some readers scratching their heads as to how shops in the state — including some here in Lufkin — are allowed to sell it, “the legal status is at the very least muddy,” state Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) said in a recent Fort Worth Star-Telegram article.

“Also, you don’t know what is really in that bottle. There’s no mechanism to certify it. There could be bad stuff in there,” she said. “The most important aspect of this is that the buyer needs to beware.”

So another plus to the bill’s passage would be the regulation of CBD oil so that more of those who need it can get it, while also ensuring it’s CBD oil they’re getting and not something else — not to mention lessening confusion for law enforcement officials.

There’s one thing no one should be confused about, however: Marijuana will remain illegal, regardless of the bill’s passage.

“No, no, no. Listen, if you are a pothead, this is not going to help you, OK?” Miller said in the interview, promising that Texas was not moving toward legalizing marijuana for recreational use. “No, no. Potheads, don’t get too excited.”

So while Texans won’t be getting high on legal marijuana any time soon, Texas farmers could be in high cotton before we know it. And that’s a hit our economy could use.

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