To understand the legality of CBD in Texas, we must first cut through the terminology thicket.

CBD vs THC

Cannabis is a genus of plants that has been used since ancient history for fiber, rope, clothing, paper, and more.

One of the chemicals found in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive chemical. The other is CBD (cannabidiol) which may be useful in health-related applications. 

Different varieties of hemp contain varying amounts of THC and CBD. Those specifically grown to contain maximum levels of THC are called “marijuana” in common parlance, but that’s not necessarily how all legislators have viewed it (more on that below).

The key point is that most state legislators want to curb marijuana and THC production and use but allow some leeway for the exploration of CBD production and use. How much leeway is afforded depends on the state and county.

Federal legality of CBD

CBD hemp oil is legal on a federal level provided it:

  • contains less than 0.3% THC

  • is grown by licensed farmers

  • follows federal and state regulations

However, opinions differ on whether this kind of hemp growing can feasibly produce a CBD oil that excludes THC.

FDA opinion on CBD

The FDA states that substances marketed for “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease and/or intended to affect the structure or any function of the body” are drugs and as such can’t be freely sold to the general public.

A key phrase that may distinguish a dietary supplement, which can be freely sold, from a drug is what the product is “marketed as”. The FDA analyzes marketing material to find phrases and claims that point towards one or the other. Companies that the FDA believe market CBD products as drugs may be issued warning letters and are normally asked to correct the violations within 15 days.

To the best of our understanding, the main goal of FDA related to the cannabis industry is to curb the marketing of untested products containing dubious substances and marketed with unverified claims. 

In the case of CBD, incorrect use may cause serious health problems, especially in vulnerable populations, such as infants and children, and the threat of lawsuits may not be a strong enough deterrent. This is why the FDA is so meticulous and strict when it comes to CBD, and we should give them kudos for that.

Legality of CBD in Texas

Texas laws related to CBD have long equated it with THC, defining both as controlled substances, save some exceptions that were slowly being carved out within the rigid legislative structure.

In 2015, the Texas Legislature enacted the Compassionate Use Act, with the purpose of allowing limited distribution of THC by physicians to patients with incurable epilepsy. In 2019, Texas House Bill 3703 allowed low-THC prescriptions for other medical issues, increasing the number of exceptions. However, the patient must have been prescribed at least two conventional medicines for the ailment and they both must have failed before obtaining a prescription for a THC product.

Excluding the exceptions outlined above, possession of CBD oil containing any amount of THC in Texas was up until recently considered a felony, carrying a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, depending on weight in grams. Possessing CBD oil without THC was a misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

In June 2019, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1325 in an attempt to synchronize Texas laws on CBD with federal laws, making it legal to buy CBD in Texas provided the product follows federal guidelines on legality, such as being derived from hemp and maintaining a THC concentration of 0.3% or less.

Texas Health and Safety Code sections 481.002 26(A) through (F) list crucial details that describe the difference between hemp and marijuana. We recommend looking for products marketed as “mature hemp” or “industrial hemp” in the state of Texas.

The science behind CBD laws

Before we dive into the science on CBD, there are two major caveats to consider when reading any study: sample size and the animal model.

Scientific studies are expensive to undertake since statistically significant results are only attainable by testing large sample sizes of thousands or even tens of thousands of participants.

Studies and clinical trials that don’t have enough funding for large-scale human observation can lead to unclear results. This problem ultimately led to the adoption of the animal model.

The animal model is the concept that we can take animals, most often mice, and test various substances on them rather than on humans. By noting the reaction of mice, we can try to deduce how humans may react. However, mice and animals won’t necessarily react in exactly the same way as humans. 

History of CBD

If you are wondering why Texas took so long to come to legalize CBD, it may have more to do with the slow progress of CBD research than the conservative leanings of lawmakers. A 2018 article written by three Brazilian neuroscientists titled “Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age” provides an overview of CBD studies.

First discovered in the 1940s, CBD was thought to be an inactive component in cannabis. Researchers were primarily focused on THC, so funding for CBD research was scarce. It took until the 1980s to make significant progress in examining CBD. Once CBD was viewed as a worthwhile compound with potential applications, more funds went into exploring what the effects might be.

A study completed in 1982 on eight volunteers titled “Action of cannabidiol on the anxiety and other effects produced by delta 9-THC in normal subjects” looked into high doses of THC causing anxiety and psychotic symptoms and the effects CBD had on them, noting “several further effects” of the latter. In a 1990 study “Anti-anxiety effect of cannabidiol in the elevated plus-maze”, rats were placed in a maze and given varying doses of CBD. The study concluded that CBD effects exist “within a limited range of doses”, tapering off with extremely large doses. In a 2006 study “Anxiolytic-like effect of cannabidiol in the rat Vogel conflict test”, the abdomens of rats were injected with CBD. The conclusion states that “results reinforce the hypothesis” that CBD has certain anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties.

Scientists then wanted to know if there were any harmful effects of CBD on humans. A 2011 study “Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent” states that cannabis is “reportedly well tolerated in humans” though side effects can include decreased fertility in women. A 2014 study “Effects of intra-prelimbic prefrontal cortex injection of cannabidiol on anxiety-like behavior: involvement of 5HT1A receptors and previous stressful experience” muddied the picture. In it, the skulls of rats were injected with CBD and the rats were again placed in a maze; the results differed based on whether rats had previously experienced noticeable stress while in the maze. Finally, a 2018 study “Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test” gave CBD to 57 volunteers and asked them to speak into a camera, measuring how their body reacted. The study confirmed the results of the 1990 study, namely that that very low and very high CBD doses have little effect.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, we’ve seen that CBD is relatively unexplored, but studies have found some dose-dependent effect in both animal model and human trials, though sample sizes remain relatively small. There simply hasn’t been enough money invested towards understanding CBD, which is one of the reasons it has remained strictly regulated.

While Texas may have taken its time to warm up to the possibilities of CBD that scientific research is beginning to uncover, the Lone Star State has finally caught up with much of the rest of the nation. CBD is legal in Texas.