Medical marijuana patients scored a tentative win on Wednesday when the Texas Senate passed a revised version of a house bill that would add several qualifying health conditions to the state’s requirements for access to medical cannabis.
Now individuals with all forms of epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, ALS, terminal cancer, autism, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases would be able to access to the medicine with a doctor’s approval under House Bill 3703. Previously, the state’s Compassionate Use Program only allowed people with severe forms of epilepsy to access the drug. For all medical marijuana patients, the legislation cuts the requirement of two licensed neurologists for entry to the program in half.
“This bill is about compassion,” commented Senator and emergency room doctor Donna Campbell, who sponsored the bill at the Senate level and who made clear during floor discussion of the legislation that she is not in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. “For patients participating in the [Compassionate Use Program], they have had a remarkable and life-altering change because of this. That’s compassion.”
To many marijuana advocacy groups’ surprise, the Senate passed the bill unanimously — but not without making some significant changes to its scope. The new version of the bill maintains a restrictive .5 percent cap on THC levels in medical marijuana products, in addition to its smoking ban, and gets rid of a provision for the establishment of a research program that would investigate the medical efficacy of cannabis.
Not all marijuana legislation has been so lucky in the Texas Senate as of late. In April, a House-approved bill to partially decriminalize small-scale cannabis possession was pronounced dead by Senate President Dan Patrick — though the city of Dallas has recently taken its own step to overhaul its legal system in terms of how it deals with such crimes.
HB 1325, which would authorize hemp farming, is currently being revised by the Senate after being passed in the House last month. The Senate has been quite vocal about opposing any steps towards the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
Campbell’s revision of the medical marijuana expansion bill also eliminates PTSD as a qualifying condition for the Compassionate Use Program based on her assertions that the scientific data to back up its use in such treatment is lacking. The change was questioned on the Senate floor, but ultimately was not seen by a roadblock by the senators that voted for the legislation.
“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,” said Campbell, despite having cut out one such potential program for such research in her draft of the bill.
Now, the legislation goes back to the House five days before its session adjourns. Representatives will have to decide whether they want to negotiate the Senate’s changes in a conference committee, or accept its revisions.