Is weed being legalized in texas
Many people might not think of Texas as a state where marijuana legalization is possible. But the state’s changing demographics have led to at least the potential for changes in cannabis laws.
There’s also plenty of money involved. As data from other states attest, the legalization of marijuana paves the way for entrepreneurial opportunities, job creation, and increased tax revenue to go to projects that improve communities and support those most impacted by the War on Drugs.
Lawmakers have filed about two dozen marijuana-related bills have in the Lone Star State, according to cannabis advocacy organization NORML. They include proposals to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, increase the amount of THC the state allows in cannabis products, and legalize adult-use cannabis.
Few expect adult-use legalization to become law in Texas, but there is strong backing for legislation in the other two areas.
Some Texans want to give more people access to medical marijuana.
Texas has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country. The state currently ranks in the bottom tier of states to allow access to cannabis for medical treatment.
“We’re pretty dang close to the bottom. We’re pretty far behind,” state Sen. José Menéndez told the Texas Tribune. He plans to push legislation in the 2021 session that will expand the program. Right now, Texans must have a physician recommend treatment for one of these seven conditions to use medical marijuana:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Incurable neurodegenerative disorders
- Intractable Epilepsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Seizure disorders
- Terminal cancer
The state also heavily restricts the amount of THC that cannabis businesses can use in medical marijuana products. The levels are so low that NORML lists Texas as being a “medical CBD” state and not as having a full-fledged medical marijuana program.
The restrictions have kept many from enrolling in the Texas program. Even though Texas is the second-largest U.S. state with about 29 million residents, it has fewer people in its medical marijuana program than its much smaller neighbors, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Texas is friendly to entrepreneurs, but not so much those in the weed industry.
Another big issue is how the state, known as being extremely business friendly, treats those in the cannabis industry. Fees in the business are “sky high,” according to the Tribune. And the restrictions on THC content and the use of medical marijuana have hindered the industry, cannabis advocates say.
They also point out that expanding the marijuana industry could bring millions into the state, both for new businesses and in tax revenue. Like every other state, Texas is expected to face financial issues associated with the cost of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas is one step closer to joining the 34 states where medicinal marijuana is legal after state legislators passed a law written by North Texas Republican representative and registered nurse Stephanie Klick to expand the conditions that can be treated with medicinal cannabis. Although the law narrowly defines which conditions can be treated with medicinal marijuana, it is a significant expansion.
Five years ago, Klick authored the first Compassionate Use Act, which said that medicinal marijuana administered via oil or inhaler could treat only those with intractable epilepsy. The new bill expands access to patients with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, autism, and other seizure disorders, allowing them to be treated with THC, the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana. The expanded diagnoses could mean an uptick for the small but growing cohort of growers, providers, and retail businesses in the THC and CBD markets.
2019 Texas Marijuana and CBD Legislation
House Bill 3703 expands the number of conditions that can qualify for medical cannabis oil, allow the three state dispensaries to expand, and establish a research program to study the effects of cannabis as a medical treatment.
House Bill 1325 establishes a federally approved program for farmers to grow hemp as an industrial crop and expands the hemp products that can be legally purchased in Texas to any hemp products with less than 0.3 percent THC.
Morris Denton is the CEO of Austin-based Compassionate Cultivation, one of just three state-licensed companies that grow cannabis, and he says the new law will have a major impact on the number of patients covered and the physicians who treat them. He estimates there are around 150,000 patients with intractable epilepsy in the state, but the new bill could expand the THC patient base to more than a million. “It will give doctors and patients more in the playbook,” Denton says. “They want to be able to have as many different options as they can.”
Compassionate Cultivation is a manufacturer of THC and CBD products that grows the plants, processes the chemicals, packages, and distributes the medicines and oils from their facility. It was the first dispensary in Texas to provide medical cannabis to a patient under the newly expanded conditions—an Austin woman being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—and legislation is paving the way for their growth.
A Natural Alternative
Dallas physician Dr. Mary Caire’s understanding of medicine and the use of nonpharmaceutical medicines has changed with the times. After a double residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation and internal medicine, she grew her practice to include functional medicine, seeing the importance of diet, hormones, and other natural substances to better treat chronic conditions.
Caire practices with LifeSpan, a preventive, integrative medicine practice in Dallas, and has seen the impacts of medicinal THC on her patients. A woman with lymphoma who was receiving aggressive chemotherapy was having difficulty staying hydrated and getting proper nutrition while undergoing treatment because of the nausea caused by the chemotherapy. She was also experiencing pain and fatigue. “She got everything traditional medicine had to offer and it failed,” Caire says.
When the new law passed, Caire began to prescribe oil with THC for the woman, and she saw many of the negative symptoms subside. THC improved the patient’s appetite and reduced the pain, and the improved nutrition allowed the chemotherapy to have a greater impact. Not only does THC help treat patients suffering from grave conditions, it can be used for pain and replace addictive opioids. The patient’s most recent scan revealed positive steps toward recovery.
While the legislation is a move in the right direction, Caire thinks more flexibility is needed to best address patients’ needs. “We are being told by the legislature with no medicinal experience how much of certain compounds we can use because they want to have some control over the amount that is prescribed,” she says. “We need the flexibility to compound it for their needs. The people who know what is best for that patient are the physician and the patient.”
Texas remains behind many other states when it comes to the legalization of medicinal cannabis with THC, but it is home to a booming market for CBD oil, which extracts the cannabinoids from hemp and marijuana. Another law passed this summer adds clarity to which CBD products are legal in Texas. Hemp Business Journal reports that the CBD market will grow from an estimated $202 million in 2017 to $2.1 billion in 2020, but because there is a lack of clarity about whether CBD is a medicine, dietary supplement, or food supplement, oversight of these products leaves providers and retailers wanting standardization.
Co-owners of retail chain CBD Kratom David Palatnik and Dafna Revah run 33 locations nationwide and six in DFW, and agree with the need for more rules. They have their own rigorous lab standards and would embrace additional oversight. “We would like to have industry standards across the board that everyone follows,” Revah says. “Medical professionals will feel better about recommending it.”
There is still a long way to go for Texas to catch up with the rest of the country in the use, regulation, and legalization of medicinal marijuana and other products, but expanded future looks inevitable. For those treating patients who could benefit from added legalization, the transition can’t come soon enough. “I think we need to change the conversation and be open-minded,” Caire says. “We took an oath that we would do the best we can, do no harm, and put the patients’ interest first. This substance meets all the criteria that we strive for with our patients.”