Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion in Legislative Limbo as Session Nears End

The future of medical cannabis expansion in Texas remains uncertain, as the state’s legislative session is set to conclude this Memorial Day.

Crucial legislation aiming to broaden access to low-THC medical cannabis products for chronic pain sufferers may face its demise if not passed by a Texas Senate committee by Wednesday – the last day the more-deliberative Senate can pass bills.

House Bill 1805, introduced by Rep. Stephanie Klick, a Fort Worth Republican, passed the Texas House 127-19 on April 12. However, the bill – an expansion on the state’s 2015 “Compassionate Use” law – has been wallowing in the Texas Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs since May 3.

Any legislation left in committee after Wednesday is dead in the water, victims of bureaucratic gymnastics aimed at stalling progress.

Sen. Charles Perry, a Northwest state Republican who leads the committee, has indicated no further hearings will be held this session. However, he expressed hope for future discussion, telling Nexstar, “Maybe we’ll have an interim charge. I hope so. We need to have a conversation.”

Current law limits eligible patients to those with epilepsy, cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, and other incurable neurodegenerative diseases.

The proposed legislation would permit medical professionals to administer 10 milligram doses of cannabis to manage severe pain, in instances where an opioid prescription might typically be the default. This could apply to chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease and other chronic pain or debilitating conditions.

Additionally, the Texas Department of State Health Services would be given the power to extend the list of ailments that could be treated with cannabis in the future, without necessitating additional changes to state legislation.

HB 1805 also modifies the current method of measuring THC. Rather than determining it based on concentration, it would be standardized to a volume of 10 milligrams per dose. Advocates believe this alteration would streamline the administration process and broaden the modes of delivery.

Texas agencies have been preparing to expand the state’s highly restrictive medical marijuana program, which has only overseen a few dispensaries so far. The Texas Department of Public Safety, for example, announced in January it was accepting applications for more retailers, with a decision on license recipients expected in June or July.

Limited Market

Still, industry insiders have expressed concerns about the upside of more dispensaries given the state’s limited number of about 45,000 registered patients, with around 10,000-12,000 active participants.

Nico Richardson, acting CEO of Texas Original, of one the first and only existing dispensaries, told Dallas Morning News in January, “We think it’s closer to 100,000 total patients before we need to initiate another process for bringing on new licenses.”

Another bill seeks to eliminate the risk of detention or imprisonment for minor possession and to allow for eventual expunging of cannabis-related offenses from criminal histories. It faces similar uncertainties as time runs out in the legislative session.

The fates of these bills now largely rest with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who decides which bills the Senate will debate and vote on.

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