Updated on April 26, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Even though the name of the state’s medical marijuana program is the “Texas Compassionate Use Act,” in reality, it’s anything but. The state of Texas has one of the most ineffective medical marijuana programs in the country — it’s arguably the worst of its kind in the United States.
Medical marijuana qualifications in Texas are limited to but one condition: intractable epilepsy. And patients are only limited to using cannabidiol (CBD) oil to prevent seizures and replace other medications that have severe side effects. The bill was signed into law in 2015 but was not expected to take effect until September 2017 at the earliest.
Texas’ medical marijuana program is incredibly limited, to the point that it does basically nothing to help patients who are supposed to benefit. Patients can only obtain CBD oil if they have tried at least two other prescription medications to no avail.
To meet medical marijuana qualifications in Texas, epilepsy sufferers must obtain prescriptions from two state-licensed physicians before they can legally obtain CBD oil. This is what makes this incredibly ineffective program basically worthless. The word “prescription” makes it just about impossible for a patient to get CBD because very few, if any, physicians will actually write a prescription for a cannabis extract. The reason is that doing so is illegal under federal law.
In states that have legitimate medicinal cannabis programs, doctors are instead required to write “recommendations” or issue “certificates” for patients to obtain legal medical weed. The language in the Texas program is written in a way that fails to protect doctors who truly believe CBD can help their epileptic patients. If they write a prescription for CBD, they not only risk arrest, but also the loss of their right to practice medicine.
Thankfully, efforts are being undertaken in the state legislature to both change the wording of the law and expand it to provide more patients with the benefits of medical weed. Hopefully, state leaders will realize that marijuana offers substantial advantages over powerful pharmaceutical drugs that can often have devastating side effects. But most observers believe that it will be a long, long time before Texas politicians do anything that would result in a legitimate medical marijuana program.
Small victories are big when it comes to marijuana in Texas. Even though people who meet Texas medical marijuana qualifications will have to wait to obtain legal medicinal pot, recreational users across the state may escape harsh penalties for possession.
In April 2017, a legislative committee voted 4 to 2 to advance a bill that would decriminalize possession of weed throughout the state. The bill would allow police officers throughout Texas to issue a ticket to someone possessing an ounce or less of weed rather than arrest them. Under the current law — one that is among the harshest in the U.S. — someone caught with that amount could face as long as six months in jail.
What is particularly encouraging about this committee vote was that two Republicans voted “yes,” along with two Democrats. Predictably, however, the “no” votes came from the other two Republican committee members. One of the reasons the Republicans got on board was that the language of the original bill was changed. If someone is caught with an ounce or less of pot three times, he or she can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if caught a fourth time. This could result in a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
However, as of September 2017, access to medical marijuana for Texas patients will get a lot easier. Cansortium Texas was issued the first-ever medical marijuana license to begin growing medicinal cannabis for the medical marijuana program, which could mean big changes for the currently restrictive program. Knox Medical, the first Texas dispensary, opened in December 2017. Compassionate Cultivate is expected to open after receiving its operating license in October 2017.
The City of Dallas joined Harris County — the county in which Houston is located — in decriminalizing possession of four ounces or less of weed in April 2017. As a result of the Dallas City Council’s 10 to 5 vote, people will be cited with a ticket and released rather than arrested — as long as they did not commit any other crime at the time they were caught with the weed.
It was interesting that the 10 to 5 “yes” margin was a direct reversal from the previous year’s 10 to 5 vote against the proposal. The difference is that the 2016 proposal was opposed by the then-police chief. Police commanders did not comment on the proposal before the 2017 vote. One of the reasons proponents were in favor of the proposal is that they believe the majority of marijuana arrests involve poorer minority residents — people who can least afford to miss time from work because they’re in jail.
If you would like more information regarding medical marijuana qualifications in Texas or any other issue involving marijuana in the state, MarijuanaDoctors.com will provide updated information on a regular basis.