When it comes to crops, Texas has one of the most diverse portfolios around. But here’s one commodity you won’t find: industrial hemp. The square cousin of marijuana has no psychoactive properties, but it does have a whole range of practical applications for things like textiles, food and fiber. The problem is that in most places, it’s illegal to cultivate it. But a bill currently being considered by Congress could change that, and it has the support of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
THC, the chemical that gets marijuana consumers high, is only present in minute amounts in hemp, Miller says.
“You couldn’t get high if you smoked a whole bale of hemp,” he says.
In a time when commodity prices are at record lows, Miller says, allowing farmers to grow hemp would provide them economic opportunity. Miller says members of his own Republican Party, who have traditionally been dead set against loosening the regulation of recreational marijuana, have been supportive of this. He says making industrial hemp cultivation legal is part of the Texas Republican Party platform. But so is marijuana decriminalization.
“I certainly don’t want that,” Miller says of legalizing recreational marijuana use.
He says the costs of regulating the marijuana industry in states like Colorado, where it recreational use is legal, reduce the economic benefits to zero.
Miller says hemp was probably outlawed because it has the ability to cross-breed with marijuana, generating more THC.
“If [hemp] is legalized, there will be parameters, and tests would have to be run,” he says. “So it would be a crop that would be monitored, I’m sure.”
The federal farm bill, which currently includes a provision to legalize hemp, could be acted on by Congress as soon as next week, Miller says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.