In an unexpected turn of events, the Texas Senate voted Wednesday to expand access to medical marijuana in the state. The bill, HB 3703, expands the list of conditions that are covered under Texas’ medical marijuana program, called the Compassionate Use Program.
The current medical marijuana program only allows the sale of low-THC CBD oil to patients with intractable epilepsy, a group so exclusive that the entire state only has around 700 active medical marijuana patients.
While the initial creation of the Compassionate Use Program was an important moment for marijuana advocates in Texas, it was too restrictive to be of real use for many in the state. The new bill will allow patients to access medical marijuana for the following conditions: all forms of epilepsy; seizure disorders; multiple sclerosis; spasticity; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS; terminal cancer; autism, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases.
The limitations of Texas’ Compassionate Use Program were obvious to state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, who wrote the original version of HB 3703. Initially, the Senate was reluctant to approve any expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program, but revisions made by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, left a version of the bill that the Senate approved of unanimously.
Campbell’s additions include:
- specifications that the Texas Department of Public Safety would still oversee the Compassionate Use Program
- keeps the cap of .5% THC content in all medical marijuana (an amount that many say is too low)
- removes a clause from Klick’s initial bill that calls for marijuana research
So, while the expansion of Texas’ medical marijuana field is an exciting prospect, it seems as if HB 3703 is fairly stunted in how much it will expand the program. But despite potential shortcomings, marijuana advocates are still calling the passage of HB 3703 a step forward.
For a moment, it seemed as if this bill had no chance, especially as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has spoken out about his reluctance to support any bill that could be a step towards marijuana legalization.
Those hoping for medical marijuana in Texas who aren’t included in the new bills list of approved conditions will have to wait for the State’s next legislative session, which won’t come until 2021. PTSD and traumatic brain injuries were notably left off the list of approved conditions, despite many veterans speaking up in support of medical marijuana for these conditions.
Texas is notorious for staunchly conservative politics, so while many are disappointed by the limitations in HB 3703, we are simply happy that medical marijuana expansion is even on the table. Of course, we’d love to see easier access to the Compassionate Use Program & more Texans benefitting from it, but realistically, we’ll take what we can get.