Protest in Fort Worth: Why is the Texas Compassionate Use Program Too Restrictive?
It’s no secret to anyone who has made the decision to get a Texas Marijuana Card: Despite expanding opportunities for natural relief for a larger number of conditions, the state’s Compassionate Use Program (CUP) is too restrictive.
We’re not trying to editorialize here. The state’s medical marijuana program is notoriously severe, both in the limits on medication strength and types it imposes and in the limited number of qualifying conditions it recognizes.
Which brings us to a noteworthy display of engaged public citizenry in Fort Worth last month, as hundreds of people took to the street with a simple message: Texas needs more access to medical marijuana.
Protestors Smoke Marijuana in the Streets of Fort Worth
Hundreds of pro-marijuana protesters took to the streets of Fort Worth July 24 in an act of civil disobedience. The advocates of expanding CUP marched through downtown, openly and illegally smoking marijuana as they passed the Tarrant County Corrections Center and City Hall, chanting slogans demanding more access to marijuana as they did so.
Texas’ CUP Medical Marijuana Law is Highly Limited
The protestors’ specific complaints were not new to anyone who has been following Texas’ CUP.
Texas Medical Marijuana isn’t Potent Enough
Even after the recent expansion of CUP, Texas law allows for very little THC in medical marijuana.
As Heather Fazio, the director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told the Texas Tribune after the expansion passed the State Legislature, “While we are glad to see the Compassionate Use Program being expanded, it’s disappointing to see Texas inching forward while other states, like Alabama for example, are moving forward with real medical cannabis programs.”
Less than two months later, and the Fort Worth Protestors expressed the same criticism to Fort Worth Weekly.
Shawn Meredith, of Austin, suffered a spinal cord injury in 1984, and has since found cannabis is the only medicine that relieves his symptoms. But as he told Fort Worth Weekly, CUP doesn’t offer him the relief he needs.
“Every state around Texas has a legit medical cannabis program,” Meredith said, “but here I have to drink a cup of oil just to get less than 1% THC. I can go get legal hemp flower with similar amounts of THC at the store around the corner from my house for less money than the Compassionate Use program.”
Texas’ CUP’s Qualifying Conditions are too Restrictive
At the time of the CUP expansion, Nick Etten, founder of the Veterans Cannabis Project, told the Houston Chronicle, “This new law is an important step forward for veterans, cancer patients, and many other Texans.”
And as the expansion added PTSD as a qualifying condition and loosened restrictions on who could participate in medical marijuana studies, it did indeed mean more relief for more people.
On the other hand, Texas’ program remains highly restrictive, with very few qualifying conditions.
“Cannabis has a distinct and potent ability to alleviate pain,” Melanie Adams, a medical cannabis activist, told Fort Worth Weekly. “It’s a matter of moral and ethical responsibility to make sure that all chronically ill patients that can benefit from this plant have access to it, not just the limiting conditions that Texas has determined based on politics and not science.”
And the Problem with Texas’ CUP Indeed Seems to be Political
As marijuana is still illegal Federally, so each of the 36 states that have established medical marijuana markets had to do so at the state level using one of two methods: Through Legislation passed by elected representatives or through voter initiatives.
“States that allow for public referendums were the first to come around (on medical marijuana),” David Sloane, a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney specializing in marijuana cases told Fort Worth Weekly.
But as our state doesn’t have a voter referendum process, CUP was created through the State Legislature, meaning any attempts to expand the program have to get by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, in his capacity as President of the Senate. And Patrick has a history of being opposed to medical marijuana.
“We previously had votes in the Senate and the House to bring forward a decriminalization bill” in 2019, Sloane told Fort Worth Weekly, “but Dan Patrick said it was dead on arrival.”
And the recent CUP expansion came through the House of Representatives with chronic pain as a qualifying condition and the THC limit on medical marijuana being raised from .5% to 5%. But in order to get the bill through the Senate, House members ended up agreeing to drop chronic pain and set the THC cap at 1%.
Fortunately, Elected Representatives Ultimately Answer to Us
While Patrick’s obstruction and the limited expansion of CUP aren’t good things, they are changeable things. And fortunately, it’s easier to change a medical marijuana program than it is to start one, because once a state has a program in place, it’s easier for citizens to apply pressure on their legislators in order to implement change.
That’s why acts of political engagement like this Fort Worth protest are so important. They offer tangible proof that public opinion is on the side of expanding access, confirming what all of those research polls have already been telling politicians.
The Public Wants More Medical Marijuana
And public opinion is indeed in favor of expanding access, at a level that politicians can’t afford to ignore for long.
More than 90% of Americans now support medical marijuana. And a majority of Texans support legalization, as opposed to a mere 14% who would prefer to see it outlawed.
So while CUP’s shortcomings and the obstinance of politicians can be frustrating, the writing is on the wall: Medical marijuana is here to stay, and it’s only going to get better. No politicians can stop this kind of public support. As the Fort Worth Weekly pointed out about current support for marijuana, “That’s a major shift from 10 years ago, when twice as many supported prohibition.”
Think of it this way: The Fort Worth protestors knew they could smoke marijuana publicly in front of the police who were providing security for the event, because the protestors and authorities had discussed it beforehand.
“(The police) just asked us to not blow smoke in their faces,” Shaun McAlister, executive director of Dallas/Fort Worth NORML told the crowd before the march started.
Would you have ever thought the day would come when police in Texas would not only discuss marijuana with a representative of NORML, but agree to look the other way while it was used publicly? Probably not, and yet here we are. And now that we are here, how can they hold us back?
And the more people who get involved in protests like this? Or who contact their State Legislators to demand medical marijuana expansion? Well then the sooner we get to a fairer and more effective medical marijuana program for all Texans.
You Don’t Have to Wait for Things to be Perfect Before Seeking Relief
No, CUP isn’t perfect, but it still offers relief that’s legally unavailable to Texans any other way.
So if you have one of the qualifying conditions, why wait for the law here to catch up with so many states? You can start finding relief with medical marijuana right now.
Reserve an appointment with one of our compassionate doctors, and we’ll schedule an evaluation for you just as soon as we’re cleared to see patients.
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually using your smartphone or computer, in a telemedicine appointment. You’ll even save $25 off the cost of the appointment!