Texas Bill Would Allow Physicians To Prescribe MMJ

MMJ Texas
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Texas lawmakers drafted a bill that would allow physicians to prescribe medicinal cannabis for patients battling chronic pain instead of opioid prescriptions.

HB 1805 authored by Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Tarrant County, was approved by the House Public Health Committee with a 10-0 vote Monday, March 20.

The bill allows the Department of State Health Services to identify medical conditions that would qualify patients for the program.

The bill expands the list of conditions for patients to qualify for a prescription of low-THC medical cannabis by including “a condition that causes chronic pain, for which a physician would otherwise prescribe an opioid.”

If passed, the bill would take effect Sept. 1.

Compassionate-Use Program
Texas passed the Compassionate-Use Program, or CUP, in 2015, which allowed the first legal use of low-THC cannabis products in the state, according to the Texas State Law Library.

It was originally solely for patients with intractable epilepsy, but was later expanded to include other conditions in 2019 and 2021 by the Texas Legislature to be more inclusive.

The program is available for patients with medical conditions such as: epilepsy, autism, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.

What is low-THC?
Information on Texas medical marijuana on Texas.gov says that low-THC comes from a plant called Cannabis Sativa L.

Parts of the plant that make up a maximum of 0.5 percent by weight of THC are considered low-THC.

Medical use of the plant is limited to swallowing a prescribed dose, not smoking it.

Patients can be prescribed low-THC if they are: a permanent resident of Texas, has one of the listed medical conditions, a CUP registered physician and their physician decides that the benefit of the prescription outweighs the risk.

Prescription drug-related overdoses in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were over 106,000 drug-involved overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021. This includes both illicit and prescription drugs.

Deaths involving drug overdose from prescription drugs rose from 3,442 in 1999 to 17,029 in 2017, said in a report.

Between 2017 to 2019, the number of deaths decreased to 14,139; but increased to 16,416 in 2020.

By 2021, the number of deaths slightly increased to 16,7706 drug overdoses from prescription opioids.

Texans in favor of decriminalizing marijuana
Although medical marijuana is legal in the state of Texas, it is still very limited.

But recreational marijuana is banned outside of some products with synthetic forms of THC, which is the part that gives a high.

According to a study at the University of Houston, out of 1200 adults, 4 out of 5 adults surveyed said they would support an expanded medical marijuana program,

They also said they would be in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession, and two-thirds of them said they would support legalizing recreational adult use, according to Austin Bureau writer Edward McKinley.

Legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession
Texas lawmakers are also considering legislation that decriminalizes possession of marijuana.

Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, authored HB 218 to decriminalize marijuana possession.

The bill was approved unanimously by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in early March.

By a 9-0 vote, the legislation says law enforcement “May not arrest the person and shall issue the person a citation.”

Similar cannabis decriminalization legislation have been passed by the House of Representatives in the past two legislative sessions in 2019 and 2021.