The program for expanding medical cannabis in Texas took a bold step forward yesterday after the Texas Senate approved a bill to expand the list of medical conditions that can be treated by cannabis.
There has been a dispute afoot in the Lone Star State over legalizing cannabis for some time now. And while the head honchos of the upper chamber there opposed bills to relax cannabis laws time and time again, the Senate just voted unanimously to expand the state’s Compassionate Use Program. This program permits the sale of cannabis oil to people with certain severe health conditions in Texas.
The bill, presented by state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, is en-route back to the Texas House where it will either be approved or thrashed out with some changes within five days. The current bill would expand the list of medical conditions treatable with cannabis, to include: epilepsy and other seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – or ALS, terminal cancer, autism and incurable neurodegenerative diseases.
As the state sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, explained, according to a Texas Tribune report, “This bill is about compassion,” she said “For patients participating in the [Compassionate Use Program], they have had a remarkable and life-altering change because of this. That’s compassion.”
Campbell’s version of the bill is interesting as it would maintain the 0.5 percent ceiling on THC content in approved cannabis products. She also proposed to remove a provision in the bill that calls for research programs to ascertain whether cannabis can treat certain conditions or not. Campbell did come under some fire though from state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, who asked her, “Why aren’t veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, included in this bill?”
A valid question, indeed. Her response was, “I hope — I hope — that we can get the definitive research necessary to be able to include PTSD, traumatic brain injury and those other illnesses that are very difficult to measure.” While some senators want other conditions included in the program, others are opposed to it.
Cambell reassured her colleagues that she would make sure the bill was kept in check. She explained that she doesn’t wish to raise the cap of 0.5 percent THC and confirmed that she was against cannabis legalization in Texas. “I am not for legalizing marijuana,” she said. “I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone.”
The Compassionate Use Act has a lot of support from some influential people. Even the Republicans of Texas asked the Legislature to “improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.” This means the issue has bipartisan support, which is always a good thing.
It remains to be seen which way the tides will turn when it comes to the Compassionate Use Act and cannabis legalization in general. Being in the South, Texas, is a state that’s traditionally conservative and not what one would consider “pro-cannabis.” However, the latest news from the Senate, there is great news for people who want and deserve access to cannabis, especially as an alternative to prescription drugs.