Texas’ medical cannabis program looks set to expand under House-backed bill

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Thursday, April 22, the Texas State House of Representatives approved House Bill 1535. The bill aims to broaden the permissive medical consumption of low-THC cannabis among patients diagnosed with a medical condition featured on the Health and Human Services Commission’s list of qualifying criteria.

The State’s medical cannabis program, better known as the Compassionate Use Program, would be expanded under HB 1535. Although the bill’s passing signals mere baby steps in the right direction to ensuring that plant access is improved for enrolled medical cannabis patients, advocates have applauded the move.

Currently, around 5,000 people in Texas – where approximately 29 million people live – are enrolled in the Compassionate Use Program. Those registered patients are served by just three cannabis businesses. If HB 1535 passes, more people are sure to enroll in the program.

At the current time, the permitted level of THC allowed in medical cannabis rests at 0.5 percent by weight of the psychoactive compound. Because of this limit, the efficacy of medical cannabis treatments in Texas is restricted, as well as the inclination of doctors and patients to partake in the program.

HB 1535 now makes its way to the state Senate for deliberation, where its destiny remains uncertain.

Medical cannabis in Texas: What does House Bill 1535 entail?

In the event that House Bill 1535 passes, physicians will be allowed to prescribe patients with low-THC cannabis that contains five percent THC by weight. In comparison with the current potency, this is ten times the amount. By increasing the potency limit for medical cannabis patients in Texas, the state’s program will be on-par with Georgia’s new low-THC medical cannabis law. 

Furthermore, HB 1535 increases the number of eligible conditions for patients who wish to receive medical cannabis in Texas. Two examples of those newly-added conditions are cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

By allowing more people to obtain their medicine, the patient count is expected to surge in the foreseeable future. Increased patient enrolment goes hand-in-hand with amelioration of the industry’s cultivation, manufacturing and retail aspects.

The Department of Public Safety has been granted the authority to impose or amend department rules related to the cultivation, processing and dispensing of low-THC cannabis in Texas, as per House Bill 1535. While it remains uncertain as to how the director will harness this power, one prospective change will likely involve the issuing of more cultivation, manufacturing and retail-specific licenses. 

Presently, Texas’ three subsisting cannabis companies are all vertically integrated; a strategy that makes the process of entering the industry much more difficult for newcomers.

Psychedelic research bill approved by Texas House amid cannabis reform efforts 

Aside from cannabis, state lawmakers are also warming up to the idea of psychedelic substances, including psilocybin and MDMA. This was made apparent on May 6, when the Texas House of Representatives approved a bill that makes it obligatory for the state to carry out studies into the therapeutic benefits of the aforementioned psychedelics.

Sponsored by Rep. Alex Dominguez (D), the measure passed by a vote of 134-12. The approval of Texas’ psychedelic research bill coincides with the progression of numerous cannabis reform measures making their way through the legislature. 

Moves like this indicate that the Texas Legislature is broadening its horizons in terms of harnessing Mother Nature’s power to serve the medical field.