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Texas Medical Marijuana

When Governor Greg Abbott signed off on SB 339 in June, 2015, the Texas medical marijuana program was created — such as it is. The program is extremely limited and, critics say, unworkable. It allows only people suffering from severe epilepsy to participate, and they only have access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil that is extremely low in THC content. The medicinal cannabis available in Texas can have no more than 0.5 percent THC, according to the Texas Occupations Code Sec 169.001.

But there are several other facets of the program that make it very disappointing to advocates of medical cannabis. The law requires that doctors must first join a registry before they can recommend CBD to their patients. They must provide information such as the dosages they recommend, how those dosages will be administered and how much cannabis is needed to fulfill the patient’s needs.

To qualify for the program, a patient must be a Texas resident who has been diagnosed with severe epilepsy. He or she must go to a doctor who devotes a substantial amount of practice to epilepsy diagnosis and treatment, and the doctor must be certified in either neurology or epilepsy by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. The patient must also have received at least two traditional treatments for seizures, and it must be shown that those treatments were not effective.

Implementation Problems

While patients eligible to receive medical marijuana in Texas will be protected from criminal prosecution, as of March, 2017, there were no dispensaries operating in the state. Texas lawmakers have ground the process of providing medical cannabis to patients to a halt. Not only did they slash the number of licenses that would be issued from 12 to three, but they increased the licensing fee by a staggering amount. The original law set the licensing fee at $6,000, but that was later increased to $1.3 million. In addition, they made operating a cultivation facility even more burdensome by requiring that any facility have 24-hour security provided by a Texas state trooper.

Even though that licensing fee was lowered to $488,520, many prospective dispensary owners are still balking, saying it still doesn’t make sense to pay the fee from a business standpoint. And while the 24-hour state trooper requirement was later eliminated, Texas will still require dispensaries to be inspected every two weeks.

The original bill called for dispensaries to be fully operational by Sept. 1, 2017, but with all the obstacles being placed in front of prospective owners, it was looking very doubtful that the deadline would be met. As a result, patients will very likely have to continue to wait for the therapeutic medicine that can relieve their suffering. Either that, or they’ll have to go out-of-state to obtain CBD oil, risking federal prosecution for transporting the cannabis extract across state lines.

So far, the state of Texas has granted two medical marijuana licenses to dispensaries: Cansortium Texas and Compassionate Cultivation. Cansortium Texas received its operating license in September 2017 and Compassionate Cultivation received approval to operate in October 2017. Knox Medical, the first dispensary in Texas, opened in December 2017 in Schulenburg, Texas.  Though this could significantly change the landscape of medical marijuana in the state of Texas, there is still no indication about when other dispensaries will open their doors to Texas patients. Also, with many restrictions on the types of products dispensaries can make available to Texas patients, some advocates are still pushing Texas to create marijuana laws that will make it easier and more efficient for patients with debilitating conditions to get the treatment they need.

The “Prescription” Question

As currently written, the Texas medical marijuana program is largely unworkable, raising the question as to whether it would even be worth it for anyone to open a dispensary in the first place. The problem is that the law requires doctors participating in the program to write a prescription for CBD oil, rather than the “recommendation” that is required in states that have truly workable medicinal cannabis programs.

The issue with writing a prescription for pot is that cannabis remains illegal under federal law, no matter what form is being prescribed. As a result, physicians would be writing prescriptions for a controlled substance and could lose their licenses as a result. For the program to work, the law will have to be amended to eliminate the prescription requirement.

Wasting a Golden Opportunity

Forbes ran an article in February, 2017 showing just how much Texas stands to lose if it fails to create a legitimate medical cannabis program that encompasses many of the same qualifying conditions included in other state programs. Instead of limiting it to only patients suffering from severe epilepsy, the article stated that if the Texas program was expanded to include conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, severe nausea and others, nearly two million patients could benefit.

And the state would see a financial windfall. According to the article, if a true medical cannabis program was implemented in Texas, sales could reach as much as $600 million just two years later, providing up to $100 million in tax revenue.

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There have been efforts among some state legislators to take a common-sense approach to expanding access to medical marijuana in Texas.

Bills have been introduced to not only increase the number of qualifying conditions, but also to expand the types of marijuana that will be available.

However, as long as Texas government continues to be dominated by hardline conservatives who refuse to consider the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, it is extremely doubtful that any real progress can be made.

Texas Marijuana Laws

Texas continues to be extremely tough on marijuana possession. Merely possessing two ounces or less of weed can land you in jail for up to six months and also result in a fine of up to $2,000. Those penalties are doubled if you are caught with between two and four ounces. Possessing between four ounces and five pounds is a felony offense that carries a jail sentence of between six months and two years, as well as a fine of as much as $10,000.

But there has been at least a bit of movement in some areas of the state to change these draconian laws. The district attorney of Harris County (where Houston is located), said in 2016 that her office would stop prosecuting minor pot offenses. Kim Ogg said that people caught with small amounts of weed will instead have to attend a four-hour drug education class. She told Forbes that the county has spent more than $250 million on prosecuting this “crime,” and the county has seen no evidence that it has helped improve the quality of public safety.

Also in 2017, a state legislator filed a bill to reduce the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of weed to a civil fine rather than jail time. SB 269 and HB 2107 would authorize the possession, use, cultivation, transportation, distribution, and delivery of medical cannabis for qualifying patients.  Again, however, it is very unlikely that such a bill can succeed as long as the Legislature is dominated by ultra-conservative lawmakers. More information can be found in our Texas marijuana law section.

In September 2017, it was announced that the first few licenses would be granted for medical marijuana growers. Cansortium Texas is the first company to officially receive a medical marijuana license. This could mean a change of heart for the restrictive medical marijuana program in the state of Texas.

Texas Qualification

Find out Who Qualifies for Marijuana in Texas in our definitive guide of Texas’s qualification guidelines. Read up on medical conditions that are covered under Texas’s medical marijuana program, age restrictions, criminal conviction restrictions, and more.

Texas Medical Marijuana Laws

Read Texas’s Full Medical Marijuana Laws to gain full specific knowledge of Texas’s exact legal guidelines without interpretation.

Texas Medical Marijuana Card

Find out how to obtain a(n) Texas Medical Marijuana Card with our guide to Texas’s state medicinal marijuana ID program. Some states require that you obtain your card prior to obtaining your medicine, so read here first to ensure that you know Texas’s requirements.

Finally, a helpful & informative website! answered all of my medical marijuana questions and helped me schedule an appointment with an accredited doctor in my area.~Susan - Denver, CO