Texas House Advances Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Access

If signed into law, House Bill 1365 would grant medical marijuana access to countless Texans.
Texas House Advances Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Access

The Texas House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that would greatly expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program. The measure, House Bill 1365, was passed by a vote of 121-23 and will next advance to the more conservative Texas Senate for consideration. Democratic Rep. Eddie Lucio III, the sponsor of the legislation, told his colleagues in the House that he wanted to help ill Texans.

“Today, I don’t just stand here as a member of this body but as a voice for thousands of people in this state that are too sick to function or that live in constant, debilitating pain,” Lucio said.

House Bill 1365 would allow access to the state’s medical marijuana program to patients with one or more of several new qualifying conditions. Under the current Compassionate Use Act of 2015, only patients with intractable epilepsy can qualify to use low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil as a medicine. Lucio’s bill would add Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and several other serious medical conditions to the program.

The bill also relaxes strict regulations to qualify for the program, including one requiring a recommendation to use medical marijuana from two neurological specialists. A recommendation from a neurologist and a second opinion from a physician with “adequate medical knowledge” would be sufficient under House Bill 1365. The measure also eliminates a provision requiring medical marijuana patients to be permanent residents of Texas.

Bill’s Fate in Texas Senate Uncertain

Despite strong support for the bill in the House, it isn’t yet clear if the measure will succeed in the Senate. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is the leader of the upper body, has already indicated he is opposed to a separate measure that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. But Lucio noted that the Texas Republican Party asked the legislature to “improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients” as a plank in the party platform last year.

“It’s not every day I get to carry a comprehensive bill that is a platform issue for both the Democratic and Republican parties,” he said. “That helps and it’s a great talking point when I can tell members there’s no political risk for them to support this bill.”

Activists Support Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill

Brian Sweany of advocacy group Texans for Expanded Access to Medical Marijuana applauded the action in the House.

“Texans overwhelmingly support the expansion of medical cannabis, and it’s encouraging that lawmakers have championed bills that make safety the priority, emphasize the need for scientific research, insist on the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, and create high industry guardrails to ensure quality and consistency for patients,” he said.

Lora Taylor told reporters that her daughter Julie, who has intractable epilepsy, was having nearly 100 seizures per month before beginning treatment with cannabis oil.

“Most of her seizures are anywhere from 3 to 25 minutes. The first 30 days that she started with the CBD oil, that was reduced to two 10-second seizures,” Taylor said. “She used to not be able to move her arms and put her arms down at all.”

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