KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) – A bill backed by nearly 60 state lawmakers from both parties would significantly expand Texas’ Compassionate Use Program, which allows those with certain medical conditions to use cannabis.
House Bill 1535, authored by state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, would expand eligibility in the medical cannabis program to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anyone with acute or chronic pain who would otherwise be prescribed opioids by their doctor.
The bill would also make everyone with cancer eligible.
Previously, only those with terminal cancer could qualify.
Those with epilepsy, a seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or autism are already eligible for the program, which was first established in 2015.
“Veterans want to use cannabis as medicine instead of all of these pills,” Dave Bass, a veteran who has advocated for the bill this session and similar ones in previous sessions, told KWTX.
“Opioids are very addictive, and the psychotropic medications cause veterans to become very dependent on them,” he said.
He said the bill is necessary for those veterans who want a “natural” remedy.
“I have literally met thousands of veterans in person and online who currently use cannabis as medicine on a daily basis,” he said.
The bill would also open the door for research into additional medical uses for cannabis and raise the maximum allowable amount of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, in the Compassionate Use Program from 0.5% to 5%.
“The reason this is important is it reduces the carrier oil that the patients have to take, which can sometimes have some digestive side effects,” Jax Finkel, the executive director of Texas NORML, told KWTX.
She said her organization is also working with the author to expand the bill to include all Texans with PTSD, in addition to veterans.
Under the current Compassionate Use Program, physicians must register with the Department of Public Safety and enter prescriptions into a state database.
Nearly 5,000 Texans use the program, according to March DPS data.
The bill passed unanimously out of the House Public Health Committee, which Klick chairs, on Monday.
It now heads to the full House for debate on the floor.
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