Texas lawmakers have passed a bill that would open the state’s medical marijuana program up to a far broader range of patients.
Republican State Rep. Stephanie Klick authored HB 3703 in an effort to expand the number of qualifying conditions that can legally be treated with cannabis oil. They include all forms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, terminal cancer, autism, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases.
The bill also aims to eradicate the need for two licensed neurologists to approve prescriptions for cannabis as opposed to one. This should cut out bureaucracy and make it easier for patients to source the medicine they need if the bill passes into law.
The Senate passed the bill last week and sent it to the House for approval. It has now been sent to the governor’s desk for approval after gaining the green light from the lower chamber.
Gov. Greg Abbott now has until June 16 to decide whether to rubber stamp the bill or to veto it. If he approves HB 3703, it would come into effect on Sept. 1, 2019. Abbott is not exactly a passionate cannabis advocate, so it hangs in the balance, but local sources expect him to sign it into law.
“HB 3703 will ensure more patients have access to medicine which will have a positive impact on their lives,” said Jax Finkel, executive director of Texas NORML, an Austin-based group that campaigns for cannabis law reform. However, he warned that it still does not cover a number of patients and they will be forced to wait until the next legislative session in 2021 for their next opportunity to “find relief”.
The bill keeps the legal THC limit at 0.5%, whereas it is far higher in some states that have medicinal cannabis programs.
Medical cannabis activists and industry insiders have also been handed a boost in Arizona after a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court. Its decision means that marijuana extracts now fall under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
In the case of State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones, a registered medical marijuana patient found in possession of a small amount of resin in 2013, the court ruled 7-0 against the state. Judges said they disagreed with the state’s argument that the act does not apply to resin or extracts. Dispensaries can now offer extracts without fear of prosecution.