AUSTIN – The Texas House and Senate have passed a medical cannabis bill that would include more medical conditions to qualify for medical cannabis prescriptions.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and state Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, voted in support of the bill.

House Bill 3703, by state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, focuses on expanding the Texas Compassionate Use program, which was enacted in 2015 to allow physicians to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. The bill maintains the Compassionate Use program’s 0.5% THC restrictions but removes restrictions on all other cannabinoids.

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Though some were cautious of medicinal marijuana legislation, Sen. Kolkhorst said HB 3703 had bipartisan support.

“As chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, I was proud to help move HB 3703 across the finish line with broad bipartisan support,” said Kolkhorst. “The Compassionate Use Act is just that – compassionate. My promise at the beginning of the legislative session was to listen to everyone so that we could get results that touch lives and make a difference. I believe we have done that. Patients have had amazing and life-altering changes because of this program.”

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, sponsored the bill in the Senate on May 22, adding amendments to include more qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use, such as terminal cancer, autism, ALS, all seizure disorders and incurable neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Campbell’s amendments also reduced the number of specialists needed to approve a patient’s participation from two to one.

HB 3703 passed out of the Senate with Campbell’s amendments and was signed in the House on May 26. It will now wait on the signature or veto of Gov. Greg Abbott.

While some found victory in the bill’s passage, others said it’s not enough. Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, called the bill “extremely limited.”

“It’s a bittersweet moment for those of us who have worked so hard to truly fix and expand the Texas Compassionate Use Program,” Fazio said in a statement. “This bill moves the needle, but falls very short of what we need in Texas. Those with other debilitating medical conditions need access to whole plant cannabis, and we will not stop until the Compassionate Use Program is truly made more inclusive and functional, protecting patients and providers.”

State Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, co-sponsored the bill, although he said he would still like to see Texas make more progress for medical cannabis.

“While I believe so strongly that the state of Texas needs to join the 33 other states that already have a form of medicinal cannabis – and this is not the bill that I would like to see on this floor – I will be supportive,” Menéndez said, adding that “cannabis as a medical treatment can help everyday Texans.”

If the governor approves the bill, it would go into effect Sept. 1.

Katie Balevic is a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is also a legislative reporter for The Daily Texan.

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(2) comments

Glenn Wilson

Well, it's a start. Not surprising that Texas can't possibly just take the leap to where this will finally end up, choosing instead to take a succession of itsy-bitsy baby steps, dragging things out for years. Very frustrating. I wonder how many generations it will take for Texas to pass "Death With Dignity" legislation.

Grace Butler

Certainly not in your lifetime and most likely not in mine. It's pathetic how anyone who is a champion of less regulation/more freedom would oppose these things, but here we are.

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