Texas’ medical cannabis program could undergo some serious expansion this year

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Texas’ medical cannabis program better known as the Compassionate Use Program had 3,811 registered patients as of December. The state legalized the plant for medical purposes in 2015, but sales officially began in 2018.

Despite the steady rollout of Texas’ medical cannabis industry, advocates claim that it has not fulfilled its true potential. Why? Because, based on the existing law and eligibility criteria for patients, as many as two million people could be eligible. However, just a fraction of this amount has enrolled.

Texas is home to almost 30 million people, making it the second-most-populated state on the U.S. map. While the program clearly has plenty of room to flourish, industry experts and advocates have slammed state officials for imposing harsh restrictions. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures claims that program restrictions medical cannabis use is allowed only in the form of cannabis oil containing less than 0.5 percent THC with a doctor’s approval have placed Texas at the bottom of the list in terms of plant accessibility. Specifically, the NCSL places it in the bottom 11 of 47 legal states nationwide.

Fortunately, with a fresh legislative session just kicking off, lawmakers are striving to amend the state’s program limitations. The primary goals will be to ease restrictions and increase eligibility for patients, so as to put Texas’ laws in-line with those adopted in other legal states.

THC cap could be lifted for medical cannabis patients in Texas 

By the end of 2021, the cap on THC limits for medical cannabis patients in Texas could be lifted. Well, if a major legislative push manages to transpire, that is. The push would also broaden qualifying conditions for patients. Some of the existing qualifying conditions include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis and spinal cord injury.

Should these changes be implemented, Texas’ medical cannabis competition could learn to rival other well-established programs in nearby states, like Missouri. Although the Compassionate Use Act could soon be amended, the sad fact remains that Texas’ program does not have as many enrolled businesses and patients as other states that have enacted medical cannabis laws.

“We’re pretty dang close to the bottom. We’re pretty far behind,” said state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, who is planning on pushing for program expansion in the new legislative session.

Lawmakers are optimistic about lifting limitations for medical cannabis in Texas

Off to a calm start, Texas’ new legislative session will extend from January 12 to May 21 of this year. The session will see 20 cannabis-focused bills receive evaluation from lawmakers. 

While the majority of Texas’ medical cannabis bills address the topic of decriminalization, a handful also aim to broaden options and reduce limitations for patients who wish to enroll in the state’s medical cannabis program. There’s even some legal language relating to the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Texas.

Although there is a slim chance that an adult-use cannabis bill in Texas will pass with flying colors this year, it’s safe to say that support is gradually getting stronger. Something that is surely stimulating the argument is the fact that New Mexico’s efforts to legalize recreational cannabis are growing evermore hopeful; lawmakers in Texas are likely feeling the pressure to launch a legal market before its neighbor does.

Fueling that pressure is the $4 billion budget deficit that Texas is drowning under, in addition to the coronavirus-stimulated economic glut. Since Texas’ medical cannabis program could help aid economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers ought to seriously consider putting adult-use cannabis on the table.