While many states sprint towards the legalization of cannabis—at least nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized it for recreational use—Texas, a state often associated with conservative values, continues to take baby steps.  Still, progress is progress, even if at a snail’s pace.

Under the Texas Compassionate Use Act, enacted in 2015, patients living with intractable epilepsy (a seizure disorder that is difficult to control with treatment) are allowed to possess low-THC (up to 0.5%), high-CBD (more than 10%) oil that is prescribed by a qualified, registered physician.  This is one of the narrowest medical marijuana provisions in the United States.

Recently, however, on May 15, 2019, Texas legislators indicated they might be softening their stance on cannabis by unanimously approving, at the Senate level, House Bill 1325, which makes it legal for Texas farmers to grow industrial hemp.  The bill also legalizes hemp and hemp-derived extracts, like CBD oil, and removes hemp from Texas’ controlled substances list. Assuming the House approves the Senate’s amendments to the bill, which is anticipated, the bill will become law.

To be clear, hemp is not marijuana—hemp and its by-products contain no more than 0.3% of THC, which produces the “high” in marijuana—and marijuana is still illegal in Texas under House Bill 1325.  In fact, it seems Texas lawmakers sought to clarify that the bill should not be viewed as a step towards marijuana legalization by including a provision that outlaws the manufacturing of hemp for the purpose of smoking.

Relatedly, the Texas House also recently approved House Bill 63, which reduces the penalties for possession of marijuana.  For example, under the bill, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would be reduced from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor—the equivalent of a traffic ticket.  However, the bill is expected to die in the Senate.

Overall, the new law allowing farmers to grow hemp is a step in the right direction, but Texas still seems a long way off from legalizing marijuana, whether for expanded medical use or recreational use.