Texas lawmakers have passed a bill that would expand access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic pain that would typically be treated with prescription opioids. If passed, this legislation would also increase the state’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit to five percent, a significant increase from the one percent limit currently set under the state’s limited medical cannabis law. Furthermore, the bill adds a tenth condition that would qualify patients for low-THC marijuana products and allows regulators at the Department of Public Health to approve additional conditions through rulemaking.
Current Status of CBD, Hemp, and THC in Texas
Texas has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the United States and has been slow to embrace medical marijuana. Under current Texas law, the use of marijuana is illegal for any purpose, including for medical purposes. Possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor offense, and individuals caught possessing small amounts of marijuana can face criminal charges, even if the substance is being used for medicinal purposes.
However, in 2015, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act, which allows for low-THC cannabis oil to be used for medical purposes. Under this law, patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy can be prescribed low-THC cannabis oil. The law defines low-THC cannabis oil as a product that contains no more than 0.5% THC and at least 10% cannabidiol (CBD) by weight.
In 2019, the Texas legislature passed a bill that expanded the Compassionate Use Act to include more medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, terminal cancer, autism, and other neurological conditions. However, the law still only allows for low-THC cannabis oil to be used for medical purposes.
Texas has also passed legislation legalizing hemp and CBD products. In 2019, Texas passed House Bill 1325, which legalized hemp and CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC. This law made it legal for Texans to purchase and use hemp-derived CBD products as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC. However, the law did not legalize marijuana or products containing more than 0.3% THC.
Expanding Medical Marijuana Access in Texas
The recent bill recognizes the potential of cannabis as an opioid alternative and is a step toward more holistic medical cannabis legislation. The House Public Health Committee approved the bill after members attended an initial hearing and commented on the proposal. The revised bill will now go to the Calendar Committee to be scheduled for a hearing.
If passed, the bill will go into effect on September 1, 2023. Advocates for medical marijuana are hopeful that Texas lawmakers will enact more comprehensive legislation or end prohibition altogether, especially as most Texas voters believe that the state’s marijuana laws should be “less stringent.”
Texas has some of the most restrictive marijuana laws in the country, and the passing of this bill represents a significant expansion in access to medical marijuana. By allowing doctors to recommend medical marijuana for chronic pain that would otherwise be treated with prescription opioids, Texas is recognizing the potential of cannabis as an opioid alternative. If passed, this legislation will go into effect on September 1, 2023, and could pave the way for further medical marijuana legislation in Texas.