House Bill 1325 by Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, would open the door to industrial hemp production, and legalize hemp and hemp-derived products such as CBD oil that contain less than 0.3 percent of THC. Marijuana would still remain illegal if the bill becomes law.
Normally a sleepier, sparsely-attended panel, the Committee on Agriculture was packed for debate on King's bill Monday.
Not one of the 20 or so members of the public who showed up to testify opposed it. The supporters included farmers who want to cash in on the drought-resistant crop, doctors whose patients use CBD products that still fall in a legal gray area and cannabis lawyers who say passing this bill will protect consumers and bolster the Texas economy.
Jeff Lake, president of a company that participates in Kentucky's industrial hemp research pilot program, detailed the kind of net profits farmers elsewhere are reporting. Where corn may yield $350 to $400 per acre on a good year, and soybeans $150 to $200, his company Elemental Processing pays $3,000 to $5,000 an acre for hemp plus a bonus based on the yield.
Profits will even out, and even plateau, once more farmers enter the market, Lake warned: “It's not something where everybody is going to get rich overnight.” But Texas businesses without a local source for the crop would be forced to continue to buy hemp from farmers in other states or Canada, he said.