The good news: More Lone Star State residents decided to get a Texas Marijuana Card in 2021 than ever before. The better news: Signs point to 2022 being another banner year for the state’s Compassionate Use Program (CUP).
In fact, when you look at the massive jump in enrollment CUP saw in 2021, the demand among Texans for an even more robust program, and the mounting scientific evidence of cannabis’ medicinal value, it seems undeniable that the future is bright for medical marijuana in Texas.
CUP Expanded in 2021 to Recognize More Conditions, Allow More THC
The first big bright spot for medical marijuana here came in June, when Governor Greg Abbot signed HB 1535 into law, expanding the number of qualifying conditions CUP recognizes as well as the amount of THC patients may use.
Thanks to this expansion, PTSD, participation in a scientific study, and terminal cancer have been added to the list of qualifying conditions recognized by CUP.
Addition of PTSD as Qualifying Condition Could Mean Relief for Millions of Texans
Statistically speaking, more than 2,300,000 Texans are likely to suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, patients are often unsatisfied with the efficacy and side effects of available pharmaceutical treatments.
On the other hand, medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD, and cannabis’ side effects are generally minor and well tolerated.
CUP Allows Twice as Much THC as Before, but That’s Not Saying Much
The CUP expansion also means Texans can now buy medicine with twice as much THC content as was previously allowed. However, when you consider that the permissible THC went from .50% to a meager 1%, meaning CUP is one of the most THC-restrictive medical marijuana laws in the nation.
The original drafts of HB 1535 called for a ten-fold increase, from .50% to 5%, and even that would be much more restrictive than most medical marijuana programs. The good news? Any increase is a good thing.
As 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.” The bad news? The low level of THC isn’t the only flaw patients and advocates found in HB 1535 as it was passed.
Patients and Advocates Demand Further Expansion of CUP
But that leads us to another highlight of 2021: Texans protested loudly for a more robust medical marijuana program even after HB 1535, showing that we here in the Lone Star State are willing to keep fighting for our relief, even in the face of politicians who have tried to appease us with the bare minimum.
HB 1535 passed out of the House with a 5% THC limit, but in order to get it through the Senate, Representatives had to agree to cut that down to 1%. And some advocates see that as deliberately too restrictive, as an effort to prevent the state from having a truly effective medical marijuana market.
As the director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, Heather Fazio, told MSN, the law is “unreasonably restrictive.” “While we are glad to see the Compassionate Use Program being expanded,” Fazio said, “it’s disappointing to see Texas inching forward while other states, like Alabama for example, are moving forward with real medical cannabis programs.”
Protestors Flaunt the Law to Draw Attention to the Need for Medical Marijuana
The most visible backlash against the overly restrictive CUP expansion came in July in Fort Worth, where hundreds of people took to the street with a simple message: Texas needs more access to medical marijuana. 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.
Shawn Meredith, of Austin, spoke with the Fort Worth Weekly about his reason for participating in the protest. Meredith suffered a spinal cord injury in 1984, and has since found cannabis is the only medicine that relieves his symptoms. Unfortunately, he says the cannabis he can get through CUP just doesn’t do enough to help.
“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.”
And knowing that more relief than CUP allows could be made safely available to so many more Texans than are currently enrolled in the program strikes advocates and patients as cruel and ignorant.
“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.”
Despite CUP’s Limitations, Enrollment Grows Along with the Expansion
Whatever the law’s limitations, HB 1535 gave medical marijuana here a massive boost. According to the Austin Business Journal, CUP issued 2,756 new Texas Marijuana Cards in September, the month that the expansion took effect. Not only is that a 33% jump in enrollment compared to August, and not only was it the first time that more than 1,000 patients received Texas Marijuana Cards in a single month, but it was also a record that didn’t stand for long.
CUP issued another 2,091 new cards in October, meaning enrollment has jumped from 4,182 patients in January of 2021 to a total of more than 13,000 in October.
But the growth didn’t stop there. CUP ended 2022 with 16,403 enrolled patients. Total enrollment jumped by 12,000 patients in 2021. And the more patients who participate in CUP, the more it will drive down the cost of medical marijuana products and encourage dispensaries to expand their product offerings, attracting even more patients, which will then drive costs even lower.
And the more people who push the state to expand CUP further, the more compelled politicians will be to attend to their constituents by doing so, which will attract even more patients, and so on and so on and so on.
For decades we heard that marijuana was a gateway drug, and that any easing of prohibitions would lead to more dangerous drug use. We now know that isn’t true.
But judging by 2021, medical marijuana is a gateway to relief and civic engagement, and the two work together to bring relief to the suffering and a more just and equitable healthcare system. We don’t know about you, but we’re psyched for 2022.
If You’re Psyched too, Then Start Your Medical Marijuana Journey Today
You don’t have to wait for the next expansion of CUP to start finding relief with medical marijuana. Reserve an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as we’re cleared to do so.
You’ll use your smartphone or computer to meet with your doctor virtually in a telemedicine appointment. Without even leaving the comfort of your own home, you’ll learn if you qualify for a Texas Marijuana Card as well as all the ways cannabis might be able to help you. You’ll even save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
At Texas Marijuana Card, our goal is to help everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.