The Texas House of Representatives passed two different bills to expand access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. The first bill, H.B. 3703, would amend the current list of qualifying medical conditions to include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and spasticity, while the second piece of legislation, H.B. 1365, would add Alzheimer’s, autism, Crohn’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD and several other conditions to the approved list.

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H.B. 1365 also decriminalizes a parent administering medical cannabis to “a child for whom the medical cannabis was recommended.” Currently, in accordance with state law, only patients with intractable epilepsy are allowed medical cannabis in Texas.

Intractable epilepsy, also referred to as uncontrolled or drug-resistant epilepsy, is a debilitating neurological condition that often leaves patients with severe brain damage; medical cannabis has been shown to dramatically reduce the likelihood of seizures in those with intractable epilepsy.

Neurons and nervous system, epilepsy iStock / iLexx

A Slow Start, But A Start

The Lone Star State has been slow to join other states in legalizing cannabis for medical use. At this time, 33 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation making medical marijuana legal on the state level. Federal law maintains that cannabis is a Schedule I drug, without any recognized medical benefit.

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H.B. 3703 was introduced to the House floor by Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick, who also happens to be a registered nurse. Said Klick to her fellow House Representatives in a speech on Tuesday, “I have seen the benefits of expanding the condition list.”

The bill passed 133-10 the following day. According to Rep. Klick, “We need more data for us to truly know if this medication helps other conditions. Our state-of-the-art research facilities here in Texas are well suited to participate in this research.” An outspoken advocate for the expansion of the existing medical program in Texas, Klick is also the one responsible for passing the original Compassionate Use Act allowing patients with intractable epilepsy to legally access and benefit from medical cannabis.

According to the Compassionate Use Act, however, even patients with intractable epilepsy were limited to low-THC, predominantly CBD-containing products. The number of dispensaries allowed to operate in Texas is limited to three across the entire state; the successful passage of H.B. 3703 opens the doors for at least twelve additional locations “if the Texas Department of Public Safety determines more [dispensaries] are needed to meet patients’ needs,” according to an article published in the Texas Tribune.

Rep. Eddie Lucio III, a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, introduced the second bill, H.B. 1365, which passed 128-20 on Tuesday. Said Rep. Lucio, “There are countless Texans enduring insurmountable pain as they battle diseases like cancer, autism and PTSD. This is undoubtedly a complex bill, members. But it has taken countless hours of time to develop a system we believe would work best to serve those in need.

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By combining needed patient protections and a comprehensive research component, this bill provides a framework to improve the lives of countless Texans in the near future.” Both bills now await further debate by the Senate.