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State lawmakers hope to expand medical marijuana during 2021 legislative session

Posted at 7:18 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 20:21:01-05

BRYAN, TX — As Texas gears up for a new legislative session, medical marijuana bills are once again being introduced.

To some Texas lawmakers and advocates, the 2021 legislative session is an opportunity to fix the Compassionate Use Program; something they hope to make more available to individuals across the State.

“I think, there’s going to be a lot of focus in expanding the qualifying conditions, to include things like PTSD and chronic pain. Possibly moving to a system, in which, people, can qualify based on symptoms, rather than conditions only. And then I think, there’s also going to be a lot of effort, towards, either removing or increasing that cap on THC,” says Katherine Harris, Ph.D. Alfred C. Glassell, III, Fellow in Drug Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Over the last five years, Senate Bill 339, or the Compassionate Use Act, has been one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country. In 2015 Texas’ list of qualifying conditions only included intractable epilepsy. In the last legislative session in 2019, terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS were included.

“It leaves off other conditions, that other states do include, like, post-traumatic stress disorder, also chronic pain. Which we know a lot of people suffer from, and for which cannabis, can provide relief,” says Harris.

Texas Tribune reports as of Dec 14, at least seven bills have been filed by lawmakers seeking to expand the Compassionate Use Program. Advocates also say it is important doctors are involved in the decision process of who qualifies as a good candidate for medical marijuana use.

“What we would like to see happen, is that the legislature, and more specifically the legislators, aren’t in the middle of a treatment plan between a doctor and her patient. Let the doctor do what the doctor is trained to do, which is treat patients,” says Morris Denton CEO of Texas Original.

Jax Finkel, Executive Director of Texas NORML says expanding the program will change people's lives who are living with unrecognizable diseases here in the state of Texas.

“What we hear from a lot of patients and caregivers, is that the person taking cannabis went from being incapacitated ,if you will, by some of these pharmaceuticals, where they aren’t really present at the dinner table, to where they’re able to really be with their family. To parent more effectively, to be more participatory,” shared Finkel.

Advocates say expanding The Compassionate Use Program would also help revive the state’s economy from the Coronavirus pandemic by creating roughly 40,000 jobs.

“In over a five-year period, create north of 7 billion in economic output, and generate $1.4 billion in tax revenue, over that five-year period for the state,” says Denton.

“So, does it bridge the entire gap? No. But does it contribute significantly? Absolutely. The Medical Cannabis Industry could become large than the craft beer industry in the state of Texas.” he added.