AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas farmers are one step closer to cashing in on the potential cash crop: hemp. ​

  • Texas House preliminary approves legislation
  • Would allow Texas farmers to grow industrial hemp
  • Also legalizes certain hemp-derived products

Tuesday, the Texas House gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp.

Many farmers are interested in growing hemp like they do corn or soy beans, or using it as a turnover crop during their off-season. The Texas bill comes after Congress passed the Farm Bill last year, which legalized hemp that contains no more than 0.3 percent of THC at the federal level. More than 40 states have passed similar statewide legislation.

“The growth of it, I think, is really just a boon for the farmers and ranchers to be able to use as a rotational crop with cotton, corn, sorghum and other things,” said Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, who co-authored the legislation.   

The Texas Farm Bureau also said it’s a positive step for farmers looking to further production.

"This is a drought tolerant crop with many uses that will grow well in Texas. Approving it means Texas farmers will have another crop with which to respond to market forces." -- Gene Hall, spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau. 

Hemp and marijuana both come from the cannabis plant family. Unlike its high-inducing cousin, hemp contains low levels of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

“We want to make sure that it has absolutely nothing that is hallucinogenic,” Springer said. “It should never be confused with marijuana or what people are smoking to get high.”

The hemp bill would also clear up some lingering confusion. The measure would legalize any hemp-derived products, such as CBD oils, with less than 0.3 percent THC. Marijuana would still remain illegal if the legislation becomes law. But on Thursday, the Texas House is expected to take up a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Several lawmakers have also authored legislation to expand the state's medical marijuana program, but those bills have yet to make it out of committee.