Marijuana advocates are hoping that Texas’s very strict medical marijuana program could see some changes.
The state will have a new legislative session next month and some Texas lawmakers see an opportunity to fix the state’s medical cannabis program.
The Compassionate Use Program is one of the strictest in the country and some lawmakers are hoping to further expand eligibility and loosen some restrictions.
Texas has 3,519 registered with the state to use medical marijuana, but according to advocates, there are 2 million people who are eligible based on current law.
The restrictions of the program put the state in the bottom 11 in terms of accessibility, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“We’re pretty dang close to the bottom. We’re pretty far behind,” said state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, referring to how access to Texas’ medical marijuana program fares compared with other states. Menéndez is pushing for legislation in the next session to further expand the program.
Menéndez is authoring a far-reaching bill that would make more patients eligible, strike the THC cap and lower business fees, among other changes.
“Here’s this … billion dollar bird’s nest that’s sitting on the South Lawn of the Capitol, waiting for the right legislator to come pick it up and take it inside, and to present it to the other legislators and say, ‘Here you go. Here’s a way for us to … [help] our citizens,”’ said Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation last November. Compassionate Cultivation is one of the state’s three licensed medical cannabis businesses.
According to Jax Finkel, the executive director for Texas NORML, Texas is often not considered a true medical marijuana state is because it caps medical cannabis at 0.5% THC, and over-the-counter hemp products are capped at 0.3%.
“While there is a difference there that has an added value and there is also value to being a registered patient, that does create somewhat of a problem,” Finkel said.
“And so a lot of people don’t really see our program as a fully functioning program.”
As of Dec. 14th, at least seven bills had been filed by lawmakers seeking to expand the Compassionate Use Program.
“I think we’d see a lot more participation if we had a real medical cannabis program,” remarked Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.