Patients with cancer and PTSD could soon enroll in Texas’ expanded medical cannabis program


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

From September 1, the Texas Compassionate Use Program will be expanded to include people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and various stages of cancer. As a direct effect of this, such patients will be allowed to use “low-THC cannabis.”

Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known by its abbreviation “THC”, is the active ingredient contained in cannabis plants that produces psychological effects, such as euphoria and mind-altering states of awareness.

THC can be consumed in various ways, such as ingesting oils, edibles and capsules. Smoking the psychoactive compound is also a popular method of administration among seasoned consumers, but the program’s expansion will not permit smoking.

Executive director of Texas’ chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Jax Finkel, says that the new law’s passage marks a victory for cannabis advocates.

Currently, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Texas is among 36 states that permit the use of medical cannabis.

THC impacts the amygdala, sayss doctor of psychiatry

The amygdala, described as the “fear center of the brain,” is influenced by cannabis’ psychoactive compound THC. This is what Dr. Muhammad Assad affirmed upon the news of Texas’ medical cannabis program expansion plan. 

“[Cannabis] decreases the hyperarousal and hypervigilance of veterans,” said Assad, who serves as a psychiatry fellow at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center. “Because they’re coming from a traumatic situation, they get very vigilant, they get very aroused, they’re always ready for challenges. So the medical [cannabis] calms them down. It also decreases nightmares.”

In regards to cancer patients, Assad says, THC mainly eases the side effects of chemotherapy, including body discomfort/pain, appetite loss and nausea.

During the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the rate of PTSD among veterans rested at around 13.5 percent. However, certain studies pin the rate at around 30 percent. What’s more, some 500,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Texas’ cannabis program served less than 6,000 people as of May

Based on state data, some 6,000 people had enrolled in Texas’s medical cannabis program as of May. Based on the new expansion law, as many as 114,000 cancer-stricken Texans could soon benefit from the program, as well as many veterans who suffer from PTSD.

The Texas Department of State Health Services stipulates that the new law will broaden the THC percentage limit to one percent for all products that contain the psychoactive cannabinoid. 

The refreshed law is a more streamlined version of a law that was written by state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, which initially passed the Texas House. Based on that version, the THC limit would have been capped at five percent.