Texas House adopts HB 1535 to expand the state’s medical cannabis program

Texas today passed bill through the House of Representatives, HB 1535, designed to expand the state’s medical cannabis program to cover more conditions and thus serve more people who depend on the plant.

Under HB 1535, the expansion of medical cannabis in Texas would cover chronic pain, all forms of cancer, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill was drafted by Representative Stephanie Klick, a Republican and the same person who drafted the first medical cannabis bill in Texas in 2015.

Currently only patients with end-stage cancer, difficult-to-treat epilepsy, seizures, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, and other neurodivergent problems are treated. However, the only treatments available to medical patients are so low in THC that the legalization of hemp in 2019 made the state’s medical cannabis law largely meaningless, as even those without a prescription now have access to hemp-derived cannabinoids.

HB 1535 would change all of that. This would raise the THC limit from 0.5 percent to 5 percent, meaning that patients in Texas would now actually have access to drugs containing THC.

Still, the bill now has to go through a Senate committee, the entire Senate, and then be signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to become law. So this is by no means a closed deal.

Why HB 1535 is necessary

Currently, the Texas Medical Cannabis Program, also known as the Compassionate Use Program, is not considered a true medical cannabis program according to NORML as it really only contains hemp and not cannabis as we think about it. The program has fewer enrolled patients and companies than most other states due to its extreme limitations. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, this is accounted for at the lowest level of patient accessibility.

“There’s an incredibly restrictive limit on THC,” said Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “Low THC levels work for some people but not for others. So we think doctors have to be the ones who make these decisions, not the legislature. “

And while she thinks the bill is a step in the right direction, she also claims it “leaves patients in dire need of access to this drug”.

In addition, other important cannabis movements are taking place in Texas. The House also passed House Law 2593 this week, an act to reduce penalties for owning concentrate. If the bill becomes law, possession of up to two ounces of concentrates is only a Class B offense.

The House is also considering House Bill 441, which would waive jail time and lose the license as a punishment for owning an ounce or less of cannabis. It would also convert that fee into a Class C misdemeanor, which, similar to other traffic violations, only carries a $ 500 fine.

“Not that we want to condone young people who smoke weed, but the penalty for owning it shouldn’t be more severe than actually using the plant,” said Fazio, referring to HB 441. “The penalties have done far more harm than that Smoking marijuana ever. ” could. “

While all of these moves are going well in the House of Representatives, the Senate isn’t always that cannabis-friendly, so there are still concerns about whether or not these bills make it to the governor’s desk. However, given the general trend in the appreciation of cannabis in Texas and the US, proponents remain confident.

“There’s been a big change now and it’s so wonderful to see,” said Fazio. “It is very rewarding to see the change in the way this issue is perceived, the seriousness that is being given to lawmakers and which is now being increasingly supported. It’s an exciting time to be a lawyer. “

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