The wording of state statutes, along with confusion about federal law, had put CBD and other consumable hemp products in a legal gray area—until the new law passed June 10, said attorney Chelsie Spencer, a specialist in cannabis law.
Retailers can sell hemp products, such as CBD oil, as long as it meets certain limits. The law also allows farmers to grow hemp with the same limitations. That is good news for CBD businesses and users. At least four shops have opened in Grapevine and Southlake within a year, and more signs advertising CBD products have been spotted in other stores.
The new legislation is part of a cultural shift, said Patrick Moran, founding board member of the Texas Cannabis Industry Association.
“There’s been a false negative stigma attached to the hemp plant that was inappropriately put on there, and now that is being reversed,” he said.
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It is a chemical compound that is found in cannabis plants. It also has a close association with THC—the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Both marijuana and hemp are part of the Cannabis sativa plant species, Moran said.
But they contain different amounts of THC, Spencer said. Marijuana contains higher levels and remains illegal for recreational use in Texas. Stores can now sell hemp products with less than 0.3% THC content.
“The 0.3% [threshold] is kind of like having the legal limit for alcohol at 0.08[%],” said John Boyd, referring to blood alcohol levels. Boyd is a Grapevine resident and retired physician who offers classes to doctors and nurses about marijuana and CBD.
Some people claim CBD helps them with social anxiety, movement disorders and chronic pain, he said.
In Texas, licensed physicians have prescribed medical CBD with slightly higher THC content to treat patients for epilepsy under the 2015 Compassionate Use Act. This year, lawmakers passed a bill to make these prescriptions available for other medical conditions such as terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis and autism.
The World Health Organization has reported no adverse health effects with CBD at this point, Boyd said. But it is still a largely unexplored area of science. With so much unknown, CBD is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women or people who are taking certain medications.
“Medically and legally and socially—it’s such a rapidly evolving situation,” he said.
Although CBD is now legal, businesses will be more regulated. Products have to be made from properly sourced hemp, Spencer said. Texas stands to have a very profitable hemp industry, but its statutes are more restrictive than many other states’, she said.
Products for smoking are prohibited, and retailers must obtain licenses from the Texas Department of State Health Services to sell consumable products, according to the new law. Manufacturers will have to include a QR code or link that directs customers to information about what they are purchasing. The new law also requires the state to set up a process to randomly test products.
Heather King, owner of CBD shop Noli in Southlake, said she is OK with these requirements.
She and her husband, Randy, researched CBD oil for six months before opening Noli. She said the family saw benefits when using it for pain relief.
“My husband and I went into this to help people because we know what it did for our family,” King said. “I think registering [with the state], the testing—it’s good for consumers.
Other shop owners agreed.
Registrations would only help legitimate businesses, said Lance Griffin, one of the owners of American Shaman in Grapevine.
“The people that invest in known franchises and that invest in brick-and-mortar stores, we’re the ones that wanted to do it the right way. We want to bring the best stuff that we can to the public.”
Legal gray area
Even before the new law—House Bill 1325—made CBD and other hemp products legal, multiple stores were already selling them. Many people falsely believed these products were allowed, Spencer said.
One reason is the federal government decriminalized hemp with the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, she said. This did not automatically mean it was legal in all states.
Enforcing the law against it in Texas, however, was sporadic and varied by county, Spencer said.
While some jurisdictions considered it a low priority, others—such as Tarrant County—have prosecuted people for possession and use of hemp products like CBD, she said. Now, HB 1325 provides registered retailers and users some protection as long as products are properly sourced.
CBD Plus owner Lisa Burger said she had to ask several cities—including Colleyville and Southlake—before receiving permits to open in Grapevine.
“There were stores trying to open all over the place,” Burger said. “I knew [HB 1325] was in front of the Legislature, and I felt very confident that it was going to pass. … There were so many people pushing for it and saying, ‘We use this product. It helps us.’”
Grapevine resident Terri Jackson said she started using CBD because it significantly reduced her pain after having knee surgery.
“I think this is the next biggest thing,” she said. “There are a lot of people who have pain and anxiety and issues like that, so I think that’s a huge market.”
The new law requires the Texas Department of Agriculture to develop a state plan for monitoring and regulating hemp production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has to approve that plan.
After the state gets federal approval, it can begin issuing licenses and accepting registrations for stores, according to the DSHS website. Agencies will also have to work on a way to randomly test stores’ products.
Officials are still working out details and exact rules, DSHS Press Officer Lara Anton said. Under current federal guidelines, CBD cannot be marketed to treat a specific health condition, and it cannot be added to food, cosmetics or dietary supplements. That may change in the future, she said.
Southlake officials say they are paying attention to state plans to ensure the city’s processes for CBD stores comply with the law.
“With the state regulatory plan still being pulled together, it is preliminary to say how the new statute will be enforced by the police department,” Southlake Police Chief James Brandon said in an email.
Colleyville officials are also tracking conversations around federal and state laws related to CBD, according to an email response from the city.
Grapevine City Manager Bruno Rumbelow said the city will be going over the new law to see whether any changes to city processes for CBD shops will be required.
Spencer, the attorney, recommends new training for law enforcement and for state agencies to publish informational booklets. Consulting with lawyers specialized in this area would make the transition easier, she said.
“There’s going to be some hiccups from the get-go, but ultimately, as the kinks are worked out and the program starts going, 100%, it’s beneficial to the Texas retailers,” she said.