Medical cannabis expansion bill passes Texas Senate

If Gov. Greg Abbott does choose to approve Texas' cannabis bill HB 3703, the list of qualifying conditions to receive medicinal-grade weed in "the Lone Star State" will be increased

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

More Texans could be on the receiving end of a medical cannabis prescription, thanks to a pot bill that will now await lawmaker’s approval in the Texas House. Cannabis advocates in Texas were jumping for joy following a successful vote in the Senate to advance the bill on Wednesday, May 22. The bill, known as HB 3703, was passed by the Texas Senate. It will now make its way to Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s desk.

Based on details of Texas’ medical cannabis expansion bill, which was introduced by Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, the list of qualifying conditions to receive cannabis oil under the state’s Compassionate Use Program will be broadened. Currently, cannabis oil as a treatment is only made available to individuals with intractable epilepsy, contingent on the patient meeting specific requirements.
(Pictured) Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels

“This bill is about compassion,” said Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels. “For patients participating in the [Compassionate Use Program], they have had a remarkable and life-altering change because of this. That’s compassion.”

Campbell’s version eliminates a provision contained in Klick’s bill that demands research into the medical efficacy of cannabis as a treatment.

Lawmakers must now hash out any new changes they wish to make to the details of Texas’ cannabis bill HB 3703 or conversely, approve it.

Texas medical cannabis expansion to include all forms of epilepsy

If Gov. Greg Abbott does choose to approve Texas’ cannabis bill HB 3703, the list of qualifying conditions to receive medicinal-grade weed in Texas will also include all types of epilepsy, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), neurodegenerative disorders, spasticity, and terminal cancer.

In the event that HB 3703 becomes the law, medical cannabis patients in Texas must first obtain a recommendation from not just one, but two licensed neurologists. The Texas Department of Public Safety would oversee and monitor all medical cannabis-related activity occurring in accordance with the Compassionate Use Program.

A 0.5 percent cap would be imposed on the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) limit of the cannabis oil administered to medical cannabis patients in Texas under the Compassionate Use Program. This cannabinoid is the plant’s primary psychoactive constituent; responsible for producing mind-altering and often sedating effects.

Lawmakers raise concerns about Texas medical cannabis expansion

Although well-received for the most part, HB 3703 has been slammed by some Democrats, many of whom criticized Campbell for introducing a bill that could potentially pave the way for recreational cannabis legalization in Texas.

Others were concerned about the fact that veterans were not included in the bill, with state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville asking why veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not being considered to qualify for medical cannabis in Texas.

Despite this, numerous pro-cannabis groups and organizations are supportive of Texas’ medical cannabis expansion, including Texans for Expanded Access to Medical Marijuana and The Republican Party of Texas, which vowed to improve the state’s program last year.