Gov. Abbott signs bill expanding Texas’ medical cannabis program

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill to expand the conditions that would qualify under the state’s medical marijuana program. 

The 2015 Texas Compassionate Use Program currently serves only Texas patients with intractable epilepsy. House Bill 3703, filed by Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, expands the Texas Compassionate Use Program to serve patients who have terminal cancer, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders and incurable neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease. The changes go into effect September 1. 

When the bill cleared the Texas Senate in late May, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, said the legislation was about compassion. 

“This is a success for those patients that we think at this point, medical cannabis, CBD oil, will help,” Campbell said. “It is not about, ‘is this a panacea to help cure the disease process?’ It’s about ‘will this CBD oil help alleviate pain, help alleviate spasticity, help alleviate some of the muscular problems that people can have?’ We don’t have great data, but there’s a lot of case studies and I hope it helps.” 

Medical marijuana supporters say they hope legislators will consider adding other conditions to the program in the future. Lawmakers said they wanted to see more scientific studies conducted on issues like PTSD before including it as a condition eligible under the program.

“Today is a positive day for Texas and for Texans whose suffering may be relieved through safe, legal access to medical CBD,” Morris Denton, CEO of the dispensary Compassionate Cultivation, said. “And while we would like to see even broader legal access to this life-changing medicine – especially our Veterans and others who are suffering with PTSD – we are encouraged by this positive step our lawmakers, Lt. Governor and Governor are taking to expand the Compassionate Use Program.” 

Other groups echoed a similar sentiment. 

“Cannabis is effective medicine for many patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said in an emailed statement. “HB 3703 represents a positive step toward a functional medical cannabis program, but sadly, it still leaves behind millions of Texas families that could benefit from legal access to the Compassionate Use Program.” 

HB 3703 keeps Texas’ current dose restriction at .5 percent THC. The Texas Department of Public Safety will still oversee and regulate the program. 

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