Uncertain Future for Medical Cannabis Expansion in Texas as Legislative Session Nears Conclusion
AUSTIN– As the Texas legislative session draws to a close this Memorial Day, the future of medical cannabis expansion in the state remains uncertain. Crucial legislation aimed at broadening access to low-THC medical cannabis products for chronic pain sufferers hangs in the balance, awaiting approval from a Texas Senate committee before the session ends.
House Bill 1805, introduced by Rep. Stephanie Klick, a Fort Worth Republican, passed the Texas House with an overwhelming majority of 127-19 on April 12. However, since May 3, the bill, which seeks to expand the state’s 2015 “Compassionate Use” law, has remained stagnant in the Texas Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs.
The clock is ticking for the bill, as any legislation left in committee after Wednesday will be deemed inactive, falling victim to bureaucratic obstacles that hinder progress. Despite the urgency, Sen. Charles Perry, a Northwest state Republican and chairman of the committee, has indicated that no further hearings will be held this session. Nevertheless, he expressed hope for future discussions, stating, “Maybe we’ll have an interim charge. I hope so. We need to have a conversation.”
Under the current law, only patients with epilepsy, cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, and other incurable neurodegenerative diseases are eligible for medical cannabis. The proposed legislation would expand access, allowing medical professionals to administer 10 milligram doses of cannabis to manage severe pain, providing an alternative to opioid prescriptions. This could benefit patients with chronic conditions such as Crohn’s disease and other debilitating ailments.
Moreover, the bill grants the Texas Department of State Health Services the authority to add more conditions to the list of ailments that can be treated with cannabis in the future, without requiring further changes to state legislation.
HB 1805 also introduces a modified method for measuring THC levels. Rather than determining concentration, the bill standardizes THC dosage to 10 milligrams per dose. Advocates believe this adjustment would streamline the administration process and broaden the available modes of delivery.
While Texas agencies have been preparing for the expansion of the state’s highly restrictive medical cannabis program, concerns have been raised about the potential impact of more dispensaries due to the limited patient pool. Currently, approximately 45,000 patients are registered, with only around 10,000 to 12,000 actively participating in the program.
Nico Richardson, acting CEO of Texas Original, one of the few existing dispensaries, expressed reservations, stating, “We think it’s closer to 100,000 total patients before we need to initiate another process for bringing on new licenses.”
In addition to the medical cannabis expansion bill, there is another piece of legislation aiming to eliminate the risk of detention or imprisonment for minor possession and to enable the expungement of cannabis-related offenses from criminal records. However, similar uncertainties loom over this bill as time runs out in the legislative session.
The fate of these bills now lies largely in the hands of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who holds the authority to determine which bills the Senate will debate and vote on before the session concludes. The decisions made by Lt. Gov. Patrick will ultimately shape the future of medical cannabis access in the Lone Star State.
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