County takes hard line with recent state cannabis laws, requires THC lab testing

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Recent laws passed this year by the state Legislature helped the cannabidiol, or CBD, market to quickly expand in south Montgomery County, with at least five CBD stores opening or announcing an opening this year as well as several existing stores adding CBD to their offerings. However, Montgomery County officials said they plan to continue prosecuting marijuana-related cases, which could affect some CBD consumers.

Local business owner Tammy Didier said she sells CBD products at her store Arolistic Naturals, which opened on FM 1488 on May 10.

“We want to educate the community here on CBD and the benefits of it and the effects of it,” Didier said.

Even though stores such as Didier’s are educating the public on possible benefits of CBD, there is confusion over what CBD actually is and what is legal in Montgomery County.

What is CBD?


Marijuana and hemp are two different plants under the same cannabis family, Didier said. The CBD customers buy from her shop is from the hemp plant, which is high in CBD and low in tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC.

Dr. Michel Watkins, a pediatric neurologist at UT Health and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, said both CBD and THC interact with cannabinoid receptors that are located throughout the body via the endocannabinoid system—a physiological, regulatory system inside the body that is said to promote stability. But the science behind this system is still poorly understood, he said.

Didier said customers buy CBD to deal with several issues such as sleep problems, anxiety and general pain. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to set up regulations on the standards and practices surrounding CBD.

Walter Ybarbo said he began selling CBD in his store Texas Naturals on Ashlane Way when it became legal.

“Everything has got to be done correctly,” he said.

Ybarbo said he has lab results showing his products meet the legal requirements. The products have helped his business grow this year, he said. •“The feedback we’re getting from customers is phenomenal ... we’ve had a lot of positive response,” he said.

Katharine Neil Harris, a research fellow in drug policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said there is no way to test whether CBD products come from hemp or marijuana. “So essentially those products can be bought and sold legally and without repercussions,” she said.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said he believes people should be wary of the CBD trend as there is little research or regulation.

“Right now, it’s kind of like the wild, wild west when it comes to CBD oil. It’s not regulated. It’s often times not tested. You don’t know where it’s being produced from,” Ligon said.

Path to legislation

Gov. Greg Abbott signed two bills into law from the 86th Texas Legislature in June that pertain to medical marijuana and hemp. House Bill 3703 allows physicians to prescribe medical marijuana for illnesses such as terminal cancer and autism, not just severe epilepsy, as the law previously said. House Bill 1325 legalized the production of hemp with a THC concentration of less than 0.3%.

State Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, said in an email HB 1325 presents a unique opportunity for Texan farmers and hemp is a viable agricultural commodity for west Texas.

Ligon spoke to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court about HB 1325 on July 9. Ligon said the problem is most police departments do not have the necessary equipment to test for the presence of THC.

Following the bill’s passage, several district attorneys, including Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, said they would limit how many new marijuana cases they would prosecute due to a lack of testing equipment. However, Ligon said marijuana is still illegal and his office has to uphold the law.•On July 9, a fund was established by the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to hire labs to determine the THC percentage.

Ligon said it is his duty to interpret the law to protect the residents of Montgomery County, even through difficult laws such as HB 1325.

“The role of the DA is ... to make a decision based on what the community standards are and what the law is,” Ligon said.

Kara McIntyre contributed to this report.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.