Texans accused of hemp-license bribery scheme

A Texas lobbyist and his associate stand accused of scamming hemp businesses by accepting bribes to “get to the front of the list” to win a hemp license in the nation’s second-largest state.

Todd Smith, 59, is charged with felony theft and accused of taking $55,000 from would-be hemp producers. If convicted, he could face two to 10 years in prison.

Smith is a lobbyist in Texas and a top political consultant to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Miller is not accused of having a part in the scheme.

One of the alleged victims, Nathaniel Czerwinski of Austin, told the Texas Standard, a public-radio cooperative,  that Smith sent him an invoice for $25,000 to win a hemp producer’s license.

“What Todd had tried to sell me is an idea that I could get to the front of the list for hemp farming,” Czerwinski told the radio station.

Attorneys for the lobbyist says the charges are false.

“Todd never violated any laws and did not steal anything from anyone,” the attorneys said last weekend in a statement.

Also accused of hemp corruption in Texas is Keenan Williams, a Smith associate accused of approaching at least six people about paying for hemp licenses. Prosecutors say Williams allegedly told an interested hemp producer that he could get a license for $150,000.

Williams faces the same charges as Smith.

The Texas Department of Agriculture officially opened its hemp licensing and permit application process in March 2020. The state does not limit the number of hemp farming licenses.