Texas House Approves Limited Medical Marijuana Bill

On Monday, the Texas State House voted, 96-34, to pass a bill that would give qualifying epilepsy patients access to medicinal oils containing CBD, one of the cannabinoids found in marijuana.

Senate Bill 339, which is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), was passed in the Texas Senate on May 7, and will now go to Gov. Greg Abbott for approval.

The Texas Tribune reported that the bill, which would require the state to regulate the distribution of CBD oil, would also require the Texas Department of Public Safety “to license at least three dispensing organizations by Sept. 1, 2017, provided that at least that many applicants have met the state’s requirements,” and have had CBD oil prescribed to them by a neurologist or epileptologist.

According to CBS DFW, the bill is “extremely unlikely to provide patients with relief,” due to the fact that it requires doctors to “engage in conduct prohibited by federal law” by forcing them to prescribe marijuana to patients, which could leave doctors facing criminal sanctions.

The Texas Tribune noted that Texas is one of 16 states where marijuana is illegal for both medical and recreational use, and that while 13 states have strict laws permitting CBD oil for certain medical conditions, 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing wider medical marijuana use.

Prior to the vote, state Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), the bill’s House sponsor, emphasized the fact that this bill would not be legalizing the full use of marijuana. “It is also not something you can get high on. It has a low risk of abuse,” Klick said. “This is not something that can be smoked. It is ingested orally.”

In Sept. 2014, investigative journalist Ben Swann released an episode of the Truth in Media Project that documented the federal government’s involvement with marijuana. He revealed that although the government claimed cannabis cannot be used as medicine, it holds the patent on cannabis as medicine.

Swann noted that in order to get a high from cannabis, there must be a high level of one cannabinoid: THC.

Jesse Stanley, one of the brothers who helped to develop a strain of cannabis that had high levels of CBD, for a little girl named Charlotte Figi, who was battling seizures, told Truth in Media about the many medicinal benefits from the plant. He said that in addition to stoping the metastasizing of cancer, CBD also helps with seizures, and that after using CBD oil for a week, Figi went a week without having any seizures.

“CBD is known to be a neuro-protectant, it is also one of the few things that causes neuro-genesis. So its not just seizures that this helps in epileptics, it is auto-immune disorders whether that’s cancer, crohn’s, lupus, there are so many different types of things,” Stanley said.

Senate Bill 339 is not the only bill currently proposing a form of marijuana legislation in Texas. A bill that would allow possession and delivery of marijuana as early as September 2015 was passed by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on May 6, in a 5-2 vote.

House Bill 2165 is sponsored by state Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview). He promoted the bill on religious grounds, arguing that marijuana comes from God and should not be banned by the government.

According to the Texas Tribune, Simpson urged House members to back SB 339. “Many people think it’s government doing too little too late, but it is a step forward for medical freedom and personal responsibility,” Simpson said.

Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told CBS DFW that this bill has potential to be historic, because it shows that the Texas legislature is acknowledging the medical value of marijuana. However, she also said that lawmakers have missed several opportunities to amend the bill in ways that would aid Texans, and that as a result, “not a single patient will be helped by this legislation.” 

“Nearly half of the states in the country have effectively implemented medical marijuana programs, and I have no doubt Texas could adopt an even better one,” Fazio said. “We need a law that ensures seriously ill patients who could benefit from medical marijuana are able to access it. There is no reason to put it off any longer.”