Texas is on the cusp of bolstering its medical cannabis program

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Tuesday, May 25, the Texas Senate approved a less restrictive medical cannabis reform measure, House Bill 1535, that would increase the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) cap from 0.5 percent to one percent. 

Additionally, the bill would include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and each type of cancer as qualifying conditions. The amended medical cannabis reform bill must first be given the green light by the Texas House, before Gov. Greg Abbott receives it on his desk.

In the event that Texas’ medical cannabis bill is enacted, the densely-populated U.S. State would see its small-scale medical cannabis market flourish.

However, the amended Senate version is much more watered-down than the version that was House-approved back at the end of April. Following much deliberation, the Senate committee reduced the THC cap from the five percent suggested in the House version. 

Moreover, the Senate committee substitute removed chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Typically, the number of chronic pain sufferers who enrol for medical cannabis in Texas far outweighs the number of people who suffer other types of qualifying conditions.

The Senate-approved version passed the day before the Senate imposed a deadline date for the consideration of all bills during this legislative session.

Texas’ medical cannabis program has some limitations 

Texas’ medical cannabis program was described as non-economically viable by the CEO of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation, Morris Denton. His cultivation space is one of three to have bagged an operating license. 

Despite being disappointed with the Senate’s amended version, he is happy that things are progressing somewhat.

Aside from Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation, just two other license holders are actively serving the state’s medical cannabis market. They are Atlanta-based Parallel/Surterra Wellness and Florida-based Fluent. 

Each licensee is allowed to own just one dispensary, which means that registered patients are limited in terms of where they can procure their medicine. 

Moreover, the number of physicians who are actively participating in the program is on the low side. Consequently, this has deterred many patients from enrolling, with the patient count standing at just 5,413 as of April; based on state data.

Fortunately, with a more expansive bill in the works, it’s highly likely that Texas’ medical cannabis program will begin ushering in new patients, physicians and licensees in the near future. The bill also seeks to establish a medical cannabis research program.

Texas Senate approves cannabis bill and psychedelics research measure

Aside from the bill to broaden Texas’ medical cannabis program, the State Senate also recently approved House-passed bills that will minimize criminal penalties for possessing cannabis concentrates. 

Moreover, the Senate pushed forward with bills that will prompt the state to Research the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances, including psilocybin and MDMA.

However, since senators made amendments to both chunks of legislation, they must first be reviewed by their originating chamber before the governor makes a final decision.

Under the terms of HB 1802, which gained Senate approval on Saturday, May 22 with a 25-5 vote, the state would be obligated to conduct studies into the medical hazards and benefits of psilocybin — a naturally-occurring compound that is produced by 200+ species of fungi. 

Not only would scientists be giving a go ahead to explore the medical potential of psilocybin but also, party drugs like MDMA and ketamine. The main aim of this proposed research is to explore potential treatment options for military veterans in collaboration with a military-focused medical facility and Baylor College of Medicine.

Conversely, should HB 2593 be enacted into law, the cannabis concentrates measure would be a milestone moment for Texas, which hasn’t eased cannabis-related penalties since the 1970s.