Texas may be on its way to legalizing medical marijuana, but many proponents say the bill is completely worthless in its current form. Nevertheless, the state’s House of Representatives put their preliminarily seal of approval on a measure earlier this week, aimed at providing “low-THC” cannabis oil to patients suffering from epilepsy and other chronic conditions.
Senate Bill 339, which was introduced by Senator Kevin Eltife, was passed by the state Senate in early May. On Monday, the House announced its support for the measure in a vote of 96 to 34, a move that has earned the “Texas Compassionate Use Act” a ticket to Governor Greg Abbott’s office for either his signature or a veto.
Marijuana activists claim this toe-in-the-water approach to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program will do nothing to actually provide patients who qualify under its restrictive nature with the medicine they need. The Marijuana Policy Project’s Heather Fazio recently pointed out in an interview with CBS News that it will be impossible for patients to get their hands on cannabis oil because the legislation forces doctors to “prescribe” the herb rather than issue recommendations. This, of course, is a major cause for concern since it is illegal in the eyes of the federal government for physicians to “prescribe” cannabis. And doing so could result in the revocation of their license to prescribe all medications.
“Lawmakers missed several opportunities to amend the bill in ways that could have provided real relief to countless Texans.” Fazio said. “Not a single patient will be helped by this legislation.”
Although the crippling language of Senate Bill 339 may have been an oversight, in the end, the Lone Star State has haphazardly stood behind a restrictive proposal that caters mostly to epilepsy patients without amending the language to, at least, ensure those people can take advantage of the program if passed into law.
“Nearly half of the states in the country have effectively implemented medical marijuana programs, and I have no doubt Texas could adopt an even better one,” Fazio said. “We need a law that ensures seriously ill patients who could benefit from medical marijuana are able to access it. There is no reason to put it off any longer.”
However, state lawmakers seem strangely determined to give Texans the illusion that marijuana reform is a high priority, while pulling the rug out from under them at the last minute. Earlier this week, High Times reported on the killing of two bills aimed at bettering the state’s marijuana laws. The first, House Bill 507, was introduced in hopes of decriminalizing the possession of marijuana by replacing the criminal penalties with a modest fine. The second measure, House Bill 2165, sought to legalize a cannabis industry by regulating marijuana as the state does tomatoes and other “God-given” produce.
Both proposals, each seemingly more of a stretch than the next, surprisingly managed to win the approval of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and were reportedly scheduled for review in the House of Representatives. However, it was made known on Monday that Todd Hunter, chair of the House Calendar Committee, refused to put the proposals on the docket and left them for dead before they ever had a chance to be put to a vote.
Although Governor Abbott has not exactly sided with the issue of medical marijuana, advocates are still encouraging him to sign Senate Bill 339, regardless of its restrictiveness, because they want the opportunity to repair the program so that patients with “other debilitating conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis,” can also legally possess and use medical marijuana. In addition, they hope to amend the language to protect physicians.