A recently-passed law goes into effect soon, expanding the number of qualifying conditions that are recognized by Texas’ medical marijuana program as grounds for getting a Texas Marijuana Card. The law also doubles the maximum legal potency of the THC allowed in the medicine.
September 1, 2021: Medical Marijuana in Texas Expands
In less than a month, Texas’ Compassionate Use Program (CUP) expanded for the second time in two years thanks to HB 1535.
We first told you about HB 1535 when it passed the House back in April, and Governor Greg Abbot signed it into law in June. In addition to the increase in permissible THC, the law adds PTSD, cancer at all stages, and participation in a research study to the list of qualifying conditions.
Medical Marijuana for PTSD: A New Source of Relief for Potentially Millions of Texans
The addition of PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions is a big deal, not only because of the way it could potentially help millions of Texans, but because it very nearly didn’t happen, or at least it very nearly didn’t happen to the scale it will when HB 1535 takes effect.
Thank a Vet, but Help Ease Everyone’s Suffering
HB 1535 was first introduced by Representative Stephanie Klick, of Fort Worth. Klick told the Houston Chronicle that she had originally intended the inclusion of PTSD as a qualifying condition to apply only to veterans, leaving civilians suffering from PTSD to find other means to cope.
It’s understandable that Klick was concerned first about veterans and PTSD, given the prevalence of the condition among those who have served. But when one considers two aspects of PTSD, one can see it would have been especially harsh to exclude Texans who haven’t served in the military from trying medical marijuana to treat their conditions.
First, there are the negative side effects of traditional PTSD medications, side effects that some patients say leave them feeling numb, hopeless, and suicidal. Second, there are the often severe and debilitating symptoms associated with PTSD, which can include difficulty focusing, poor sleep quality, intense phobias, blackouts, irritability, and hallucinations. In the worst cases, PTSD sufferers may experience homicidal or suicidal impulses.
Fortunately, as Klick continued researching medical marijuana, she learned just how many Americans suffer from PTSD, and just how compelling the evidence is that medical marijuana can bring PTSD sufferers such powerful relief. Klick ultimately decided that she couldn’t allow Texans who haven’t served to continue to suffer needlessly.
So How Many Texans are We Talking About Here?
Unfortunately, the state doesn’t keep records or estimates of how many Texans suffer from PTSD, but the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 7-8% of Americans will endure the condition at some point in their lives. If our state’s rate is comparable to the nation’s, more than 2,300,000 Texans could someday benefit from the expansion.
Access to Medical Marijuana Expanded for Cancer Patients Also
Upon the creation of the CUP, terminal cancer patients could treat their conditions with medical marijuana, but cancer patients at all other stages were stuck with the traditional treatments for their chemo side effects and symptoms.
And just as the thought of excluding non-veterans with PTSD seems cruel when contextualized, the inclusion of only terminal cancer patients under the CUP seems cruel when one considers the potential relief medical marijuana can offer to all cancer patients.
Research has shown that cannabis can help improve diminished appetites, alleviate nausea, and reduce pain, all symptoms associated with cancer itself and the effects of chemotherapy. There is even some encouraging early research that indicates that CBD might be able to slow the spread of cancer!
HB 1535 Doubles THC Content, but is it Enough?
THC, one of the two primary active ingredients in medical marijuana, is often maligned because it’s the source of the “high” marijuana users get.
That’s unfortunate, because evidence indicates that THC is vital if medical marijuana is to be as effective as possible. First, in a phenomenon that has been dubbed the entourage effect, cannabis appears to be at its best medically when all of its ingredients are consumed together. So, for example, taking CBD and THC appears to have more medicinal value than taking just CBD alone.
But just consuming some THC isn’t adequate for relief from some conditions; patients must also get enough THC.
Patients Say CUP THC Limits are Still Too Low, Qualifying Conditions Too Limited...
From the passage of the CUP law, critics have said the law’s THC limit of .5% is too paltry to be effective, and patients seem to agree.
For example, Shawn Meredith, of Austin, told Fort Worth Weekly that the medical marijuana he can buy under CUP doesn’t relieve his spinal injury pain.
“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.”
Barbara Bevill, of Wylie, used street marijuana to help her win her 2014 battle with breast cancer, when only terminal cancer patients qualified for CUP. She told the Texas Tribune that she wished she could have better monitored what was in her medicine, but she didn’t have that option as it was bought on the black market.
“It was something illegal, something I couldn’t access,” Bevill said. “I would have loved to have known the percentages and everything that was in it… but it was not like I could go to a dispensary or store to ask. I took what people gave me.”
...and Advocates Say That Drives Them to Crime and Out of Texas...
According to Jax Finkel, the executive director of the Texas’ chapter of NORML, CUP’s low THC limit and limited qualifying conditions drive patients to the black market, making them criminals and diminishing the medical value of their marijuana. Or it drives them out of Texas altogether.
“When you’re purchasing through the illicit market, you don’t really know necessarily what you’re getting,” Finkel said. So patients must choose between the risk of uncertain medication or the certainty of suffering.
Finkel says the restrictive qualifying conditions of CUP also drive patients underground.
“Because [CUP] was so narrow for so long, many patients were forced to go to the neighboring states around Texas that have robust medical programs to gain access to the plant,” Finkel said. “And in fact, many patients have had to actually leave the state permanently for access — medical refugees.”
And the Tribune reports that according to a survey conducted by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy found that 84% of CUP participants say they’ve considered leaving the state for one more cannabis-friendly.
On the Bright Side, Advocates Also Say HB 1535 is a Big Win for Patients
But all progress is good, and advocates say that HR 1535 is indeed progress.
Finkel, told the Texas Tribune that there is still much work to be done in expanding and improving CUP, but that this law represents a victory for advocates of expanding legalization rights.
And Nick Etten, founder of the Veterans Cannabis Project, told the Houston Chronicle that “This new law is an important step forward for veterans, cancer patients, and many other Texans.”
And while she expressed disappointment in the limited nature of HB 1535’s improvements, Heather Fazio, the director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told the Texas Tribune “we are glad to see the Compassionate Use Program being expanded.”
The fact is that it is easier to expand a medical marijuana program than it is to create one. After all, marijuana was illegal entirely in Texas for nearly a century, and now CUP has been expanded for the second time since its 2014 passage.
Things have never looked better for medical marijuana in the Lone Star State.
And That Means There Has Never Been a Better Time to Get a Texas Marijuana Card
If you suffer from one of the qualifying conditions, why wait any longer to learn what medical marijuana can do for you?
Reserve an evaluation with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable doctors today, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as we’re cleared to see patients.
Together, you and your new doctor will discuss your condition and decide if medical marijuana is right for you. You’ll even receive $25 off the cost of your appointment, and a full refund if you and your doctor decide medical marijuana isn’t right for you. You have nothing to lose, and an expanded CUP to enjoy!