Texas Bill Could Expand State Medical Marijuana Program to Millions

Today, members of the Texas House of Representatives are scheduled to debate and vote on a potentially huge expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program. Rep. Stephanie Klick, a Fort Worth Republican, filed House Bill 1805 in January, which would add chronic pain as a qualifying condition for the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP).

Daryoush Austin Zamhariri, creator and chief editor of the Fort Worth-based Texas Cannabis Collective news site, said Klick’s bill could expand TCUP, the state’s medical marijuana program, to include millions of Texans.

Under the bill, patients with conditions “that cause chronic pain, for which a physician would otherwise prescribe an opioid” as well as other “debilitating medical conditions” would be eligible for TCUP. The bill has a Senate companion that was filed by Lubbock Republican Sen. Charles Perry. Klick’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

TCUP has become known as one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country. It has expanded a few times since it was approved in 2015, but it’s still limited. It was initially open only to patients with intractable epilepsy, and medication was limited to 0.5% THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana that gets users high.

In 2019, the program was expanded to include patients with terminal cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis, among other illnesses. In the last legislative session, it was expanded to allow patients with all forms of cancer and PTSD, and the THC cap in medication was increased to 1%.

All that THC can come only in the form of edibles or tinctures, as smokable flower is still not allowed in the state’s medical marijuana program. That wouldn’t change under Klick’s bill.

What would change, however, is that more Texans than ever before could qualify for the program under the bill, Zamhariri said. On top of including chronic pain as a qualifying condition, Klick’s bill would also give the Texas Department of State Health Services the authority to add even more qualifying conditions to the program. The bill initially called for an increase to the THC cap in medication to 5%. But after it was heard in the House Public Health Committee, the THC limit was changed to be volumetric like many other medications, with the cap being set at 10 milligrams per dose. 

“In the end, it is another big step in the right direction but still well behind our neighbors New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas.” – Daryoush Austin Zamhariri, Texas Cannabis Collective

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“Chronic pain is one of the biggest components,” Zamhariri said. “If that language makes it all the way to passage, it broadly opens up the program to millions of Texans. … My only concern is any concessions that may have to be made in the Senate, which is where, historically, cannabis bills get more acutely impacted.”

Zamhariri said the TCUP medication would also be stronger under Klick’s bill, but it still leaves much to be desired in its current form. “The strength of meds will also increase; however, people will likely be disappointed in that inhalants are unlikely to be included through this legislation,” he said. “In the end, it is another big step in the right direction but still well behind our neighbors New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas.”

New Mexico legalized recreational marijuana in 2021; Oklahoma has had an expansive medical marijuana program since 2018; and medical marijuana patients in Arkansas are allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis.

If enacted, HB 1805 would take effect on Sept. 1.

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