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Texas Medical Marijuana Program Expands; Low THC Oil

Thousands more patients in Texas now have access to low-THC Cannabis oil. The expanded law took effect on Wednesday.

Texas Cannabis Collective

Thousands more patients in Texas now have access to low-THC Cannabis oil, reports KUT. The change comes under an expanded medical marijuana law that took effect Wednesday.

Texas’ compassionate use program now includes patients with any type of cancer, and to those battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

House Bill 1535 doubled the THC limit allowable under the program. But when your starting point was an absurdly low 0.5%, that doesn’t help much. You still wind up with a miserly 1% THC. 

Even another expansion of the state’s medical cannabis law, created in 2015, didn’t change one unfortunate fact about Texas. The state’s medical marijuana program remains one of the most restrictive in the country

Law Originally Covered Veterans Only

The bill Fort Worth state Rep. Stephanie Klick submitted back in March called for cannabis oil to be made available only to sufferers of PTSD who are veterans. But many who testified on the bill at the Texas Capitol, including veterans, said eligibility should be extended to anyone dealing with the condition.

The same logic was behind the decision to include all forms of cancer. 

“It’s arguable that any form of cancer could be terminal, right? So it felt like a very arbitrary descriptor,” said Jax Finkel, the executive director of Texas NORML, reports KUT.

She said people dealing with the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy shouldn’t have to worry about whether their fight against cancer is dire enough to warrant medical relief from cannabis oil.

Though the increase in the amount of THC is minor, Finkel said, it will allow cannabis oil producers to better serve their patients.

The House Giveth and the Senate Taketh Away

When the bill was introduced, many patients and advocates hoped the THC limit would increase to a maximum of 5%.

Legislators in the House agreed to the 5% THC limit, but the Senate cut it back to only 1%. 

The House version also included additional qualifying medical conditions. One of the most talked about was anything that causes acute or chronic pain for which a physician would otherwise prescribe opioids. The Senate removed that provision.

“Texans support a robust and inclusive medical cannabis program that allows doctors and patients to decide their treatment and formulations,” Finkel said. “But then when we look at the Legislature, they’re only there every two years. So any patients that aren’t included, have to languish for two years.”

Finkel supports allowing patients and doctors to decide which health conditions would benefit from cannabis instead of waiting for lawmakers, reports KENS5. “Because patients then have to wait two years to gain access, and with some of these debilitating conditions, that literally could mean life or death,” she said.

85% Support For Legalization In Some Form

An overwhelming 85% of Texans believe marijuana should be legal, either or both medically and recreationally. But the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican governor make the final call. Republican lawmakers have their foot planted firmly on the brakes, repeatedly choosing to move slowly. They once again chose to move the program forward only by frustratingly tiny steps.

“I think there are some easy things they can do next session to put power in the hands of doctors and patients,” Finkel said. “That’s allowing the Department of State Health Services to allow petitions, add new conditions, evaluate them and add them on a regular basis. To allow them to deal with dosing, because those are the medical professionals.”

It’s not a radical idea to allow DSHS to evaluate and add medical conditions to the state’s medical marijuana registry. The House included that in the version of the bill they passed.

But the Senate ultimately decided to once again stomp on those brakes. They removed that provision, too.