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Politics

Texas Bill Expanding Access To Medical Cannabis Oil Heads To House For Debate

Custom Botanical Dispensary, a downtown Austin shop that carries hemp products and oils.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Custom Botanical Dispensary, a downtown Austin shop that carries hemp products and oils.

Multiple cannabis-related bills went through committee hearings this week in the Texas Legislature, and one focused on medicinal cannabis has already passed unanimously onto the House floor for debate.

House Bill 1535 from state Rep. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth would expand medicinal cannabis oil access in the state, making people with all forms of cancer and veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder eligible for the Texas Compassionate Use Registry. Physicians can prescribe cannabis oil to patients who are on this registry.

Klick’s legislation would additionally make anyone with “a condition that causes acute or chronic pain, for which a physician would otherwise prescribe an opioid," eligible to access cannabis. The bill would also increase the maximum amount of THC that can be present in the oil. The cap for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, would increase tenfold, from 0.5% to 5%.

But many of those who testified at the hearing on Wednesday said the 5% cap on THC was either much too low or should be done away with completely, saying the amount should be something that's discussed between the individual and their physician.

David Bass, a cancer survivor and a veteran suffering from PTSD, told members of the Texas House Committee on Public Health that he’s already illegally using cannabis with higher THC levels as his medicine.

“I use one-half gram, three times each day in a portable vaporizer instead of taking opioids and psychotropic medication,” Bass said. “I’ll be glad to be a TCUP patient, but I hope we will raise the THC limit because I need 20% THC. That’s what I use every day now.”

Jason Walker, a disabled veteran, also testified that the THC limit should be removed, saying “5% [THC] is not medicine for PTSD.”

“I’ve done the research on myself. I’m looking you in the eye, it’s not going to work for PTSD, and this is what I worry about,” Walker said. “People like myself, when I was on all those pharmaceuticals, they led me to a suicide [attempt]. There’s going to be veterans — this is going to be their last hope, the last thread they’re holding on to.”

Walker also said that medical cannabis should be available to anyone suffering from PTSD and shouldn't be limited to veterans.

The committee passed the bill unanimously on Wednesday, and the legislation now heads to the Texas House floor to be debated.

Earlier this week, six bills related to penalties for marijuana possession were given a hearing in the Criminal Jurisprudence House Committee. All six bills were left pending.

On Thursday, the Agriculture and Livestock Committee heard testimony that would make adjustments to the state’s budding hemp program. The bill is from state Rep. Tracey King, who led the 2019 effort to establish the hemp program.

Aaron Owens, owner of Tejas Hemp in Dripping Springs, spoke on a section of the bill that would allow hemp farmers an extra 10 days to harvest their crops.

“This is compliance with the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] federal rules, and allows the farmer the best chance possible to successfully navigate the physical, political and real-life challenges of having their plants tested and documents prepared for a compliant harvest,” Owens said.

The bill, which would also allow institutions of higher learning to be issued a license to conduct research on hemp seeds and plants, was left pending in the committee.

Got a tip? Email Jerry Quijano at jerry@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.

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