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Less than 600 Texans receive medical cannabis, CBD as impediments to new law mount

By Meg Ellis
Dec 07, 2018

Of the estimated 150,000 Texans eligible to receive prescribed marijuana-derived oil under the Texas Compassionate Use Program, fewer than 600 have actually received their medication.

The San Antonio Express-News found that roughly 45 doctors in the state have signed up to prescribe cannabidiol, almost a year after Texas had its first legal marijuana harvest. In accordance with the state’s Compassionate Use Program, only those patients with intractable epilepsy may be prescribed CBD with low THC components.

Since developing the Compassionate Use Program, 150,000 patients have been prescribed CBD, but only three companies in Central Texas have been licensed to distribute the drug. According to the San Antonio Express-News, one company has yet to open and another has reported financial losses due to a small client base.

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As lawmakers gear up for another year, Texan politicians are already coming to bat for patients requiring CBD-based medicines.

So it isn’t really bigger in Texas?

Texas is in the process of rolling out their Compassionate Use Program, which allows for state-sanctioned LOW-THC oil use for the relief of certain medical conditions. Low-THC oil is defined here as being less than 10 percent CBD and greater than 0.5 percent THC.

These measurements are very similar in percentages to CBD oil —which typically has a maximum of 0.3 percent THC — causing many to claim that CBD oil is legal. The Texas DEA maintains that marijuana and its extracts and concentrates are still Schedule I drugs, so it would be more accurate to say that Texas allows Low-THC oil and not CBD.

Additionally, in order to qualify for the Low-THC oil, Texan patients must meet stringent criteria. Patients must have tried two FDA-approved drugs and found them to be ineffective. Additionally, the patients must be permanent residents of Texas and get approval from two of the doctors listed on the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas.

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This system is understandably frustrating to patients, caretakers, and politicians alike. With the current legislative year coming to an end, there are a few rogue Texas politicians making sure that they put their boot in the door for next year’s session.

Proposed pot legislation for Texas

The 86th Texas Legislature will convene in January, but November 12 is the beginning of open-season for legislation. Thus far, there are 12 pieces of proposed legislation waiting to be amended and ratified in Texas.

Many of the bills deal with criminalization while others deal with the boring nuts and bolts of prosecuting pot-related offenses. There are a few that tackle the tricky issue of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. SB 90, proposed by State Sen. Jose Menendez, relates to authorization of medical cannabis for medical use.

It removes the low-THC oil restriction and simply refers to medical marijuana rather than a CBD specific treatment.

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HB 186, a bill introduced by State Rep. Terry Canales addresses the way that criminal charges are brought against those in possession of CBD oil or infused products like baked goods. If the bill passes, prosecution for possession of these items would still be allowed, but only for the amount of marijuana that was in the product.

“Current law allows law enforcement to over-zealously increase criminal penalties for Texans and we, the taxpayers, are paying for it,” Rep. Canales told the Marijuana Policy Project.

Any way you cut or measure it, marijuana is in for an interesting political season in Texas.

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