Texas Medical Marijuana Patients Caught in Catch-22

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Texas’ medical marijuana patients are still finding themselves in a classic Catch-22 situation. The Lone Star State is the only one in the union where its medical marijuana law requires that doctors “prescribe” MMJ rather than “recommend” it—like the rest of the country.

This is obviously a problem because doctors are not permitted by law to prescribe a Schedule I substance, which sadly marijuana is, according to the DEA’s absurd system of classification.

But it’s never been easy in Texas.

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the Compassionate Use Act in 2015, the law was meant to allow neurologists and epileptologists (epilepsy experts) to prescribe low-THC, cannabis-based medicine to people with untreatable and intractable epilepsy.

However, under Texas law, medical cannabis cannot exceed 0.5 percent THC. Since the federal limit for hemp is 0.3 percent, patients could conceivably—and already are in some cases—purchasing similar products online. In any case, this dose is far too low to help epilepsy patients.

To prescribe medical cannabis, two doctors need to agree that the patient would benefit from it. Then, the doctors need to register themselves and their patients with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and specifically state their diagnosis.

While physicians were able to join the DPS system on September 1, there’s still no official timetable for when patients can start receiving their medicine.

Doctors can only begin writing prescriptions, “once low-THC cannabis product is available,” according to the DPS website.

Meanwhile, the DPS has licensed three companies to grow pot and produce MMJ in Texas.

So, medical cannabis should be sprouting soon if it hasn’t been washed out by Hurricane Harvey; however, since doctors can’t prescribe it, what’s next?

Will this Catch-22 situation put doctors at risk and ultimately affect the state’s MMJ patients? It looks that way.

“We remain concerned that doctors will be required to violate federal law to participate,” said Heather Fazio, a spokeswoman for the Texas Marijuana Policy Project, per the Houston Press. “A simple change to the law would provide doctors with the protection they need.”

Fazio believes that the slow roll-out and unreasonable laws reflect a larger issue with Texas’ medical marijuana program.

“These folks [at DPS] haven’t known anything other than putting people in jail for cannabis, and now, all of sudden, they have to learn about this plant, establish best practices and execute the rollout,” Fazio told the Texas Tribune. “That’s a lot to do in a little more than two years.”

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