Crime

In Texas and Beyond, Hemp Growers Are Fighting a Bill They Say Could Crush the Industry

Texas hemp manufacturer Hometown Hero CBD sued the state last year to prevent it from banning THC isomer products like delta-8. The legal battle continues.
Texas hemp manufacturer Hometown Hero CBD sued the state last year to prevent it from banning THC isomer products like delta-8. The legal battle continues. Photo-illustration by Sarah Schumacher
A new bill called the Hemp Advancement Act of 2022 has worried a few people in the hemp business. One group, Texas Hemp Growers, is working to combat language in the bill that they say could crush the hemp industry. They’ve started a national group called American Hemp Growers to do it.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine didn’t respond to requests for comment, but she has said she’s proposing the bill, in part, to help people in the hemp business. If passed, one thing the legislation would do is implement a cap on all THC in hemp products.

The way hemp laws are written now, there is a 0.3% limit by dry weight on delta-9 THC, the chief psychoactive component in cannabis. But there are of other isomers of THC, such as delta-8, that occur naturally in small amounts in the hemp plant but are not limited by law as delta-9 is. Pingree’s bill would increase the cap to 1% on hemp during production, but it would include all THC.

Zachary Maxwell, president of Texas Hemp Growers, says it’s something to fret about. “There is a high chance the Hemp Advancement Act will pass this year,” Maxwell wrote in Facebook post on Friday.

The way Maxwell sees it, it’s being pitched as an agriculture improvement bill which can be attached to this year’s Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is passed every four years by Congress to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “This is exactly how the hemp program was originally passed, as an amendment attached to the 2018 Farm Bill,” Maxwell explained.

If this happens the way the bill stands, Maxwell said, it will “kill the delta-8 and smokable flower market.”

“If your business depends on delta-8 or smokable flower, then you cannot sit on the sidelines and assume this will die,” Maxwell said. “This bill will effectively kill the hemp industry and shutter probably 50%+ hemp retailers across the country.”

“There is a high chance the Hemp Advancement Act will pass this year." – Zachary Maxwell, Texas Hemp Growers

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That’s why he created American Hemp Growers and is partnering with others around the country to stop the bill or get the language in it changed. While tackling this bill is their main focus, Maxwell told the Observer American Hemp Growers will likely take on other issues in the future.

“I feel American Hemp Growers will be a strong advocate for smokable flower farmers, manufacturers, distributors and processors of delta-8 and other isomers, [as well as] mom-and-pop retailers and customers that depend on these products financially and medically,” he said.

While delta-8 and other isomers can be found naturally in the hemp plant, there usually isn’t enough to feel their effects. So, companies have been manufacturing products with higher potencies by extracting CBD from hemp and converting that CBD into THC isomers like delta-8. Businesses assumed they could manufacture and sell these products because federal and subsequent state laws surrounding hemp only mentioned restrictions on delta-9. This led to an exploding market of hemp-derived THC isomer products.

Pingree’s bill is seemingly an attempt to rein in this market.

Maxwell and plenty of others think the market needs some work (some regulating, perhaps), but not an outright ban. He’s planning to meet with Pingree’s staff to discuss changing the language.

“Our position is that delta-8 and other isomers should be regulated responsibly as adult-use products,” Maxwell said. “Smokable hemp flower should not be restricted in any capacity than it already is.”

While the bill would overly restrict the hemp industry in its current form, according to Maxwell, it would also bring some welcomed changes. For example, hemp companies wouldn’t be restricted to labs registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency for their testing under the new bill. It would also open up hemp programs to people with prior drug-related felonies.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn