Expansion of Medical Cannabis Moves through the Texas Legislature

The Texas Tribune is reporting that that state’s legislature is nearing completion of a bill that would expand its small, medical cannabis program to include new conditions.

The bill passed the Texas House, with another version passing the Texas Senate.

The medical cannabis bill now heads back to the Texas House.

The lower chamber can either accept the Texas Senate version or attempt to negotiate differences in the two versions. If the Texas House goes the latter route, they will have five days before the regular session of the legislature adjourns.

“The version of the bill approved by the Senate would expand the list of conditions that qualify for the medicine to include all forms of epilepsy; seizure disorders; multiple sclerosis; spasticity; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS; terminal cancer; autism and incurable neurodegenerative diseases. The bill also axes a requirement in current statute that says those wanting access to the medicine need the approval of two licensed neurologists, rather than one.”

The current medical cannabis law in Texas, called the Compassionate Use Program, allows for the use of cannabis oil only for people suffering from intractable epilepsy who meet a number of requirements spelled out by the law.

The Texas law and the bill that would expand it is different from the medical marijuana laws in other states in that it does not allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes and that the cannabis oil that is permitted can only contain .05 percent of THC, the substance in pot that makes one high.

Texas, a conservative state, would seem to be one of the last places to accept the idea that anything derived from marijuana should be permitted, even for the treatment of serious diseases.

However, Texas also has an independent streak in its political culture.

The two qualities often clash, especially in Austin, the state capital.

Still. the Lone Star State is proceeding cautiously.

The original compassionate use law was passed during the 2015 legislative session and was strictly limited.

Texas lawmakers are very keen to assure themselves that the loosening of restrictions on medical cannabis will not lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana, as it has in other states.

Besides harboring a general antipathy to legalizing a drug that is still prohibited on the federal level, members of the legislature can point out problems that legal pot has caused in states such as Colorado, including a spike in driving while high incidents.

As an interesting side light, the Texas Legislature is also moving to approve the growing of hemp, a plant that is related to cannabis, and which was recently approved on the federal level.

The Texas Tribune notes:

“The bill would legalize hemp and hemp-derived extracts like CBD oil as long as they contain no more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC. While hemp-based products that contain no THC — like clothing and twine, protein powder, moisturizers and essential oils — are legal in the state, the plant cannot be legally grown here, and Texas businesses often have to source it from other states.”

Hemp oil, like cannabis oil, has been touted as a treatment for a variety of conditions, including chronic pain and anxiety.

Hemp oil, which also comes in topical and edible form, is widely available both in stores and online in Texas.

However, pending the passage of the Texas hemp bill, the legal status of hemp derived CBD oil is unclear and fraught with a great deal of confusion.

Recently, law enforcement raided a pair of shops in North Texas that sell hemp oil and related products, claiming that they were marijuana according to the NBC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth.

The store owners were adamant that they were selling nothing that can get a person high.

Currently enforcement of laws against hemp and hemp related products is spotty, with some district attorneys declining to prosecute until matters become less murky.

In the meantime, the hemp oil craze proceeds apace in Texas as it has across the United States.

The upshot is that the laws that govern both cannabis oil and hemp oil are in a state of flux in Texas.

When things finally settle down, the former is likely to be legal for a growing number of conditions, under strict state supervision, while the latter will be treated more like a food supplement than a drug, meaning it can be used at will be Texans for any purpose.

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