Will Texas Further Expand Its Medical Weed Program?

Photo: Shutterstock

Texas is one step closer to expanding its medical marijuana program. House Bill 1535 would open up the Texas Compassionate Use Program to all cancer patients, veterans with PTSD and those with chronic pain that would usually be treated with opioids.

To the surprise of some weed advocates, the bill made it out of the Texas House Committee on Public Health.

If passed, the bill would also include a significant increase in the state’s THC limit for medical marijuana products. Currently, the cap is 0.5% THC. The bill would increase this to 5%.

According to NBC News, recreational marijuana in Colorado averages just over 18% THC, though the psychoactive effects from cannabis depend on more than THC level.

The bill was authored by Fort Worth Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick. Klick was also behind the last expansion of Texas’ medical weed program.

In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbot signed the Texas Compassionate Use Act allowing some qualifying patients to access to weed with 10% or more cannabidiol (CBD) but no more than 0.5% tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”). It also allows regulated businesses to cultivate, process, and distribute “low-THC cannabis” to certain patients.

Klick got the program expanded in 2019 to include more qualifying conditions.

Daryoush Austin Zamhariri, creator and chief editor of the Texas Cannabis Collective, a cannabis news site based in Fort Worth, said the Lone Star medical weed program is one of the most restrictive in the country for both the industry and the patients.

Texas has only three licensed dispensaries overseen by the Department of Public Safety. Additionally, the only medical weed products come in oil form.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws doesn’t even recognize Texas as a medical marijuana state because there are so many limitations.

Doctors, veterans, cancer patients and other weed advocates testified in support of the bill in front of the Texas House Committee on Public Health on Wednesday.

Zamhariri went to Austin this legislative session to testify in support of various marijuana bills.

Dr. Mary Caire, a medical doctor who’s been working in the Dallas Fort Worth area for 19 years, testified in support of the bill.

“I’ve seen first hand the transformative power of cannabis in my patients who are currently eligible under Texas law, but I’ve also been faced with agonizing conversations of those who are just as deserving who have not qualified for treatment,” Care said.

James Michael Thompson, who represents Texas Cancer Survivor Coalition, said from the time he was 10, he fought four kinds of cancer, had 75 surgeries, two bone marrow transplants and a 12-hour facial reconstruction surgery.

Altogether, the procedures took place over half a decade, a period Thompson can’t get back. “Cancer may have taken five years of my life, being stuck on pain meds took an additional six,” he said. Thompson asked the committee to imagine what he could have done with those six years he was hooked on pain medication.