In Texas, the current medical cannabis system is one of the most limited out there. Patients must be permanent residents of the state, and intractable epilepsy is the only qualifying condition. Right now, there are just three dispensaries operating, smoking is outlawed along with home cultivation, and only CBD oils with minimal levels of THC are available for treatments.
As State Senator José Menéndez says, “The current Compassionate Use Act in Texas is worthless. We say to cancer patients, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not worthy of it. HIV patients, sorry. Glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis C, you name it, you’re just not worthy.’”
New Measures and Potential Hope for Patients
The limitations of the 2015 Compassionate Use Act are finally being addressed by state lawmakers. Its original author, Republican State Representative Stephanie Klick, has now introduced House Bill 3703 to expand qualifying conditions to include broader forms of epilepsy and spasticity, plus multiple sclerosis.
In addition, 12 other bills have been brought to the table during the current legislative session in Texas. Most promising among them are companion bills, SB 90 and HB 209. Authored by Senator José Menéndez and Representative Eddie Lucio III respectively, these measures take things even further than Klick:
- Qualifying conditions would include autism, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, cancer, HIV, AIDS and more.
- It would allow doctors to treat medical cannabis as a standard option just like other available medicines as well as recommend it for chronic medical conditions and severe pain or nausea.
- The measure would raise the low-level THC requirement, currently 0.5 percent per weight.
During the 2017 legislative session, Menéndez introduced a similar bill that failed to receive a Senate committee hearing. Meanwhile in the House, Lucio’s companion bill garnered extensive, bi-partisan support and had 80 co-sponsors, but time ran out before the measure made it to the floor for a vote.
One bill to watch is HB 63, filed by Representative Joe Moody and aimed at decriminalization. If passed, possession of an ounce or less of cannabis would no longer be considered a criminal offense and only be subject to a maximum civil fine of $250. This bill has already received a hearing, but there is no vote yet.
Do These Bills Have What It Takes in 2019?
The 2015 Compassionate Use Act faced fierce criticism and Klick was even booed by fellow lawmakers, so it’s no surprise that these current measures will face an uphill battle. The biggest obstacle will likely be Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick who presides over the Texas Senate and has the power to prevent any bill from reaching the upper chamber for a vote.
In regards to Patrick’s stance on medical cannabis, spokesperson Alejandro Garcia has stated that he is, “strongly opposed to weakening any laws against marijuana [and] remains wary of the various medicinal use proposals that could become a vehicle for expanding access to this drug.”
Some see his stance as out of step with public opinion. In fact, according to a 2018 poll conducted by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, 84% of Texans support cannabis legalization for certain uses. On the flipside, only 16% want it to remain illegal under any conditions.
According to Menéndez, Democrat and especially Republican supporters of medical cannabis should get in contact with their representatives, as well as Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott. He implored, “Voters who identify as Republicans who agree, which I know there are many, we need to have them reach out to our elected officials and say, ‘Hey, I’m a Republican primary voter, and I need you to get on board with this. This is not a partisan issue. You’re way off base.’”
Because Texas is one of the few states where the legislature only meets every other year, there’s a lot at stake in 2019. If an expansion of the 2015 Compassionate Care Act doesn’t happen now, an opportunity for medical cannabis reform will have to wait until 2021.
Our team here at Medicine Man Technologies will be sure to keep you in the loop.
If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.