The Texas House of Representatives will vote on a bill next week that would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients as an opioid alternative for chronic pain.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R), would also replace the THC cap that was established under the state’s existing limited medical cannabis law.
After moving through the House Public Health Committee last month, the measure was brought before the Calendars Committee on Thursday, which has now scheduled it for floor debate and a vote on Tuesday, April 11.
This also comes weeks after a separate House panel unanimously approved a bill to decriminalize cannabis possession in the state while providing a pathway for records expungement.
The medical marijuana expansion legislation, meanwhile, would replace the one percent THC cap for cannabis oil from with a volumetric dose of 10 milligrams.
Legislation to improve the #Texas Compassionate Use Program has been scheduled to be debated and voted on by the full House of Representatives on 4/11/23.
— Texas NORML (@TexasNORML) April 7, 2023
It would also add a tenth condition that qualifies patients for low-THC marijuana products: “A condition that causes chronic pain, for which a physician would otherwise prescribe an opioid.”
Importantly, the bill further stipulates that regulators at the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) could approve, through rulemaking, additional debilitating medical conditions to qualify patients for the cannabis program. If enacted, the bill would take effect starting on September 1, 2023.
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Advocates at groups like Texas NORML are encouraging supporters to reach out to their representatives and encourage them to approve the reform.
While advocates would like to see the conservative legislature enact more holistic medical cannabis legislation, or end prohibition altogether, the measure does represent a significant expansion, while also recognizing the potential of cannabis as an opioid alternative.
The full Texas House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance in the Senate that session. Lawmakers have since been unable to pass additional expansive cannabis bills in recent sessions.
For his part, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that he doesn’t believe people should be incarcerated over low-level marijuana possession. However, the governor incorrectly suggested last year that lawmakers have already adopted the policy statewide.
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said in September that he will work to enact criminal justice reform in the 2023 session, and he again expressed support for lowering penalties for marijuana possession.
The Texas Republican Party adopted a platform plank endorsing decriminalization of marijuana possession in 2018, but that was later rescinded.
A poll released last month found that a majority of Texas voters say that the state’s marijuana laws should be “less strict.”
Also last month, Texas lawmakers filed three bills aimed at expanding research on the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics. Those measures, if enacted, would build on a modest psychedelics study law enacted last session.
Meanwhile, there’s also been a surge of local action on marijuana issues under home rule laws in Texas over recent years.
Major cities like Austin have already enacted decriminalization locally at the ballot, and voters passed the reform in five other Texas cities this past November.
San Antonio voters will see a measure on their May ballot to decriminalize marijuana, prevent the enforcement of abortion restriction laws and ban no-knock warrants.