While access to medical marijuana has become more common than ever, it is unfortunate that some states still offer little to no help for patients who need it. Some states, like Texas, seem to allow compassionate access through bills that are titled as such and legalize low-THC CBD oil, but many of these laws only permit possession – and often for just a limited number of conditions.
“I think that the current Compassionate Use Act in Texas is worthless,” Senator José Menéndez said. “We say to cancer patients, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not worthy of it. HIV patients, sorry. Glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis C, you name it, you’re just not worthy.’
Though Texans do have three dispensaries to access their low-THC cannabis oil, it is only available to patients with intractable epilepsy, and only after they have had no success or relief with at least five other medications. This law was implemented in 2015, but now 84 percent of Texans want to see medical marijuana access expanded, and some lawmakers are hoping this can be the year progress is made.
“Yesterday, as we’re talking to the pain specialist in my wife’s hospital room, and he’s like, ‘OK, I need to get you off the opioid painkillers, the narcotics, so that you can go home,’ and I asked him, ‘Hey, if there were medical cannabis products available, would it help?’ And he said, ‘Yes,’” Menéndez said.
There are multiple bills floating around in both chambers of Texas legislature that hope to significantly expand access to medical marijuana. Senate Bill 90, which was introduced by Senator Jose Menéndez, would give doctors the ability to recommend medical marijuana for any patient they believe could benefit from it.
There are also bills circulating that hope to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana, such as House Bill 63, filed by Representative Joe Moody, which would turn possession of an ounce or less into a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $250. Almost 70 percent of Texans support reducing punishments for simple marijuana possession to eliminate life-long problems that follow conviction, such as being unable to get financial aid, find rental housing, or obtain employment.
Unfortunately, so far none of these bills have seen a vote – but there is still time for them to end up on the governor’s desk by May 29th when the legislative session ends. However, if none of the medical marijuana bills see a vote by then, they won’t until 2021, as Texas legislature gathers bi-annually. Hopefully, lawmakers can take the time to really consider how voters feel about the issues and make these changes a priority in the current legislative session.