Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Monday that recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana. SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), is intended to allow patients with intractable seizure conditions to access marijuana extracts containing high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and only trace levels of THC.
SB 339 requires doctors to “prescribe” low-THC marijuana extracts to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions. By contrast, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana or “certify” patients to use medical marijuana in the 23 states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia. Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.
The bill also only allows for extracts with very little THC, and some seizure patients say a greater ratio of THC to CBD is necessary for it to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The bill also fails to allow access to any medical marijuana products for people suffering from other debilitating conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, for which medical marijuana has been found to have significant medical benefits.
Despite SB 339’s significant limitations, advocates supported Gov. Abbott signing it into law and promptly implementing the program. It has frequently taken as long as two to three years for patients to begin safely accessing medical cannabis preparations after state medical marijuana laws are enacted. First, rules need to be crafted for the operation of dispensaries, then there is an application process, and finally the providers must find locations, build out their facilities, and begin cultivation.
While this low-THC cannabis oil program is very restrictive, the passage of SB 339, Texas’ Compassionate Use Act, is an historic moment that reflects the great work done by advocates. Here is an overview of the program.
The 84th Texas Legislature introduced a record number of marijuana related bills. The results varied — details can be found here — but there can be no doubt that more humane marijuana laws are on the horizon.