The Texas state legislature has approved two bills that propose to expand the state’s current medical marijuana laws.
The Lone Star State’s relatively restrictive Compassionate Use Act only allows those Texans that have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy are currently allowed to use cannabis products that have low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol.
The Texas House legislature approved two bills, House Bills 3703 and 1365, which would both expand upon current regulative restrictions on cannabis use for medical relief if they survive the legislative process.
State Representative Stephanie Klick, author of HB 3703, would amend the current Compassionate Use Act, allowing patients with multiple sclerosis, persistent muscle spasms, and any form of epilepsy to be eligible for a medical marijuana prescription.
Rep. Eddie Lucio III’s bill, HB 1365, proposes to cover many more patients with a wide range of ailments. HB 1365 was also the first to pass out of the House on Tuesday, May 7 with Klick’s bill passing on Thursday, May 9.
What the two bills propose to do
Klick, the author of the state’s current Compassionate Use Act, has proposed a more restrictive medical marijuana bill than Lucio, arguing that her bill falls more in line with the intent of the 2015 Compassionate Use Act.
In an interview with Dallas News, Klick argued that the Compassionate Use Act was meant to ensure that Texas would “have a truly medical program that follows the scientific data.”
Prior to her stint in the state legislature, Klick served as a nurse. Utilizing her personal professional experiences as a background in developing this bill, she argued that adding multiple sclerosis is acceptable because “the scientific data is fully developed for MS.”
In addition to adding MS to the list of illnesses eligible for medical marijuana treatment, Klick’s bill would establish a statewide research study on the use of low-THC medical marijuana. The research program would be administered by the state’s Health and Human Services Commission.
“We need more data for us to truly know if this medication helps other conditions. Our state-of-the-art research facilities here in Texas are well-suited to participate in this research,” Klick said.
Lucio’s HB 1365 proposes to further expand upon the current Compassionate Use Act by providing more access to medical marijuana for a larger number of patients with a greater variety of diseases and ongoing medical conditions.
These conditions include “autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, muscular dystrophy and MS.”
“There are countless Texans enduring insurmountable pain as they battle diseases like cancer, autism, and PTSD,” Lucio stated when he introduced the bill on May 6. “This is undoubtedly a complex bill, members. But it has taken countless hours of time to develop a system we believe would work best to serve those in need.”
The bill would allow people with severe nausea, continuous muscle spasms, or severe pain to use medical marijuana as a form of treatment. Like Klick’s bill, Lucio’s HB 1365 also calls for a research component.
HB 1365 would establish a 12-member board which would oversee a statewide “cannabis therapeutic research program”. This board would develop guidelines for administering medical marijuana, including ensuring quality control for purity, labeling, and offering information on best practices for cultivation.
The board would also determine the “appropriate formulations and dosages” for patients with specific medical conditions.
“By combining needed patient protections and a comprehensive research component, this bill provides a framework to improve the lives of countless Texans in the near future,” Lucio said.
What are the bills’ chances of survival?
Both Lucio and Klick feel optimistic about the odds of their bills’ surviving the legislative process. The House approved Lucio’s HB 1365 by a vote of 128-20, and Klick’s HB 3703 passed with a vote of 133-10.
The bills still need to be heard by the State Senate, and will ultimately go to the Governor for approval or veto if they make it out of the Senate revision process.
While both bills enjoyed bipartisan support, it remains unclear as to whether one, or both, of the bills will make it out of the Senate.
Current leader of the state Senate Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been openly opposed to a Senate Bill which proposes to lower criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
That bill, like Lucio’s and Klick’s bills, passed with the support of more than 100 House members.
The current legislative session will end on May 27, so Texans only have about two weeks to wonder which of the bills, if any, will survive the Senate hearing process. If both make it out with relatively few amendments, the governor will certainly have their pick of the medical marijuana related bills.