When it comes to progressive lawmaking, Texas likely isn’t the first state that comes to mind. But this month’s decision by the DEA to keep cannabis a Schedule 1 narcotic has spurred Texas pot activists to action. Lawmakers and activists are teaming up to make marijuana reform a priority in the next legislative session, and they’re setting their sights on the “Compassionate Use” law that was passed in 2015.
A Flawed Law
Texas has a law called “Compassionate Use” which allows epilepsy sufferers to take low-THC cannabis oil. Cannabis oils containing CBD, which are naturally lower in the psychoactive THC, have delivered remarkable results for those suffering from epilepsy and other neurological diseases.
But when the law was passed, the language was flawed, and it created a system that didn’t work. Doctors, according to the law, could only “prescribe” cannabis, instead of “recommending” or “certifying it”. Due to technicalities in Texas law, a physician who prescribed cannabis could lose their license to prescribe other controlled substances (like opioids for pain).
In short, the law was so flawed and limited, that patients had to leave the state to seek care elsewhere.
Besides revising the language of the “Compassionate Use” law, activists and lawmakers want to expand access to medical marijuana by getting more qualifying conditions on the books.
“If we are compassionate about people with epilepsy, then we should be compassionate about people with cancer, and cataracts and glaucoma and veterans who are being put on all kinds of opioids,” Democratic State Sen. Jose Menedez told TX Public Radio. “It is senseless to me that the State of Texas thinks it knows better than people’s doctors.”
There are those who make the financial case for expanding medical cannabis access, too. They argue that Texas is already investing in the processes of licensing dispensaries and organizations, and stands to generate even more revenue from licensing additional businesses.
Expanding the types of cannabis products that can be sold to patients, for example including THC products alongside CBD ones, would increase Texas’ potential patient base by more than half a million individuals, according to some estimates.
Despite the support of Republican lawmakers in Texas state congress, who added the “Compassionate Care” bill to their platform this year, Texas governor Greg Abbott remains a fierce opponent of medical cannabis. Gov. Abbott has vowed to strike down any medical cannabis bill that passes the legislature.