The Industrial Hemp Scandal in Texas

Todd Smith, a known political advisor to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, was federally charged with theft and commercial bribery linked to taking cash in exchange for Texas hemp licenses that are passed out via Miller’s office, per Travis County district attorney José Garza earlier this week.

Smith was booked in May, charged with receiving upwards of $55,000 as part of the heist, per an arrest warrant affidavit. Smith and others were indicted with demanding up to $150,000 to get an “exclusive” hemp license via the Texas Department of Agriculture. Allegedly, Smith expressed $25,000 would be allocated for a public poll on hemp. An industrial hemp permit from the state of Texas costs approximately $100, again per Todd Smith’s arrest warrant.

“We are holding accountable powerful actors who abuse the system and break the law,” Garza said. “Our community needs to know that no one is above the law and will face justice.”

Smith could not immediately be contacted for follow-ups, however, Smith’s attorneys expressed in a statement that their client has not infringed on any ordinances.

“We are discouraged that the Travis County District Attorney has received an indictment against our client, [Smith] was not asked to speak with the Texas grand jury. He is not at fault for any of these charges and plans to energetically defend himself against the charges brought by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office,” litigators Sam Bassett and Perry Minton expressed in a statement.

The Legislature permitted industrial hemp production, manufacturing, and sales in 2019, opening the window for the uplifting of cannabidiol, also known as CBD, merch. At the time of the charges brought against Todd Smith, the Texas Department of Agriculture was creating ordinances for the developing industrial hemp enterprise.

The charges come as Miller seeks a third term as husbandry commissioner. Sid Miller is up against two Republican opponents in the March primary, Texas Representative James White, R-Hillister, and Carey Counsil.

Sid Miller’s competition has already taken focus on him, trying to corroborate him with Todd Smith. In a sit-down with the Houston Chronicle at the beginning of the year, Sid Miller shrugged off the charges against Smith, whom he still backs professionally.

“It happens every [Texas Primary.] [Miller’s opponents] know they’re not going to get you on anything. However, the procedure is the problem. All they require is a tagline: Sid Miller’s political guy is about to go to jail for selling hemp licenses,” (slight tagline paraphrasing) Miller expressed to the Chronicle. 

“Well, they brought [Smith] in for questioning. They said, ‘alright, this was more thansix6 months ago’, they expressed we’re not filing charges, and we’re not federally indicting [Smith], so the end of the story, people, move on. Unfortunately, they got the headlines, so they bring up that old [stuff.].”

Earlier this week, Sid Miller refused to comment directly, expressing he was just discovering the news of the charges from a reputable Texas publication. Instead, he went on Red radio host Chad Hasty’s podcast and expressed he’s gonna take a look at the indictment, but Miller isn’t “ready to throw Todd Smith under the bus.” Miller also stated he is “not shocked,” hinting it’s politically driven. Sid Miller expressed he still doesn’t believe Todd Smith performed any wrongdoing.

Todd Smith has encountered criticism before over his behavior and links to the Department of Agriculture. Four years ago, the Austin American-Statesman conveyed that Todd Smith vowed a San Antonio businessperson an arrangement with the Department of Agriculture in exchange for a loan worth upwards of $29,000. A couple of years before the loan, Sid Miller gave Smith’s wife a freshly-created assistant commissioner position.

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