Texas Patients? This is the News You Were Waiting For

Lori Ann Reese

Posted by Lori Ann Reese on 11/13/2020 in Cannabis Laws

Texas marijuana law changes

Did you know that MarijuanaDoctors.com receives more than 30,000 unique visits to our website from Texas every month?  We’ve been watching the progression of the medical marijuana program in Texas for some time.  And listening to the frustration that many patients in Texas feel regarding the restrictive medical marijuana program.

Texas took an approach that was very conservative when it came to legalizing medical cannabis.  Both patients and physicians have criticized the approach.  Texas’s qualifying health conditions are limited and restricted to end-of-life care, hospice, and only the most severe diagnoses.

A new report from PEW Research indicated that 68% of Texans favored ending cannabis prohibition.  That would mean an expansion of the qualifying health conditions and decriminalizing possession.  But the state remains known as one of the hardest jurisdictions for patients to become registered medical cannabis users. And providing Low-THC options that do not meet the wellness needs of all patients. 

Chronic Diseases Currently Impact More Than Half of Texans

According to data from “The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease,” Texas had 15.6 million citizens with at least one chronic condition (2015). The population of Texas in 2019 was 29 million citizens. That means almost 54% of residents in Texas have at least one chronic disease.  According to PFCD six (6), million residents had two or more chronic diseases.

In 2018, the average age of residents living in Texas was thirty-four (34) years.  While it may seem that chronic diseases are less of a factor for a younger population, the opposite is true.  With so many middle-aged adults with chronic diseases, the projected cost of healthcare (2016 – 2030) is $166 billion.

Chronic Health Texas Medical Marijuana

What Are the Qualifying Health Conditions for Texas Patients?

Only the most severe or life-threatening health conditions qualify (currently) for medical cannabis. The list is so restrictive that patients must have a terminal health condition or one that obstructs self-care or activities of daily living.  

The following list of qualifying health conditions in 2020 was provided after an amendment to ‘expand’ patient eligibility in 2019. The list, however, is not particularly ‘expansive’ compared to other states. 

 The current qualifying health conditions for medical marijuana in Texas are:

  • Intractable Epilepsy (and other seizure disorders)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • ALS
  • Terminal Cancer
  • Autism

Texas enforces a Low-THC limit on any medical cannabis products sold to patients. Any amount of concentrated cannabis is considered a felony offense in Texas. Therefore, concentrates and high-potency cannabis is not available to patients.  And the severity of the patients’ symptoms is not taken into consideration.  It’s Low-THC or nothing.

Some of the common qualifying health conditions that other states have permitted for patient eligibility include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • AIDS / HIV
  • Cancer (Non-Terminal)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Chronic Pain

The fact that chronic pain is not on the list of Texas’s qualifying health conditions is disappointing for patients.  Including people living with moderate to severe daily pain.  And people who have developed a resistance to prescription pain medications. Who find themselves with no other legal treatment alternatives.

Increasingly states are amending medical cannabis legislation to provide better patient care.  Allowing physicians or primary care providers (PCPs) to make the decision.  Based on their care relationship with the patient and personal knowledge of the patient’s condition(s).

Do Texas Patients Get a Medical Card?

Texas is a state that has decided to administer medical cannabis in a tightly controlled manner.  While other states avoid using the term “prescription,” any physician in the state can ‘prescribe’ medical marijuana to a patient. Providing the patient meets the very limited list of chronic health conditions or symptoms provided by the Texas Department of Health.

Texas does not issue a medical card to patients.  The Texas Department of Public Safety administers the “Compassionate Use Program” or CUP.  Once a patient with one of the six (6) qualifying conditions qualifies for the CUP, the physician prescribes directly.  The physician determines the amount. The patient then picks up the medical cannabis at a local dispensary. 

Currently, the way registered patients are managed in Texas is using the same model as a conventional pharmacy.  Consultation with the physician, followed by prescription, and sending the authorized prescription to the patients’ local dispensary.  In the summer of 2020, Texas medical dispensaries were too sparsely located.  The CUP had to set up ‘temporary’ dispensaries to accommodate patients.

It is unclear whether physicians place a ‘repeat’ on the prescription or whether patients must have an in-office visit each month.  It may be at the physicians’ discretion.  But if so, the frequent doctor’s visits would create an unreasonable financial burden for patients.

Texas Medical Marijuana

Nine New Texas State Bills Are Filed to Change Texas Marijuana Laws

Fox7 reported that nine new bills were introduced in Texas.  The bills were provided ahead of time to the Texas Senate to give them ample time to review them before the January 2021 legislative session returns.

“This may be the first time in the Texas Senate that a bill has been introduced to repeal prohibition entirely,” said Heather Fazio, Director at Texan For Responsible Marijuana Policy.”

Senator-elect Roland Gutierrez (D) is the sponsor of the bill. Senator-elect Gutierrez tweeted that the new SB-90 measures would create more than 30,000 new jobs in Texas.  And that the expansion of the medical marijuana program would produce $3.2 billion in new revenue.

The SB-90 bill filed with the Texas Senate included “authorizing the possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by qualifying patients.” Some of the measures proposed include the complete decriminalization of cannabis. A set personal possession limit of 2.4 ounces to adults aged 21 years or older.  And legalizing the cultivation of cannabis (limited to 12 plants per household) for personal use.

It is also expected that the current Low-THC requirement for medical marijuana in Texas may also be amended.  Due to increasing pressure from patients with chronic or terminal illnesses.

Decriminalization May Put the State of Texas Back in the Financial Black

The timing couldn’t be better for Texas. KTSA News reported that the State Comptroller Glenn Hegar had projected a deficit in Texas of $4.6 billion. The increased healthcare costs in Texas due to the Covid-19 health emergency have taken a big fiscal bite out of the state coffers.  The startling financial news will be presented to the Legislature in January 2021.

The expansion of the CUP in Texas could give the state a much-needed revenue boost in 2021.  And the creation of new jobs in the new medical cannabis industry in the state.  This may include licensing medical dispensaries, issuing patients cards, and expanding access to registered patients’ products. And not at ‘popup’ temporary dispensary locations.

Patient access is a priority. The availability of different potencies (depending on the patient’s wellness needs) is a high priority.  And more inclusive qualifying health conditions?  That’s what Texas residents with health needs have been waiting for. And if it allows Texas to emerge financially from the pandemic unscathed, it might be a strategy worth adopting. 

With thirty million residents and leading the country with more than one million cases of Covid-19 infections, Texas (like many states) could certainly use that financial help.  

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