AUSTIN, TX. 18 May, 2015 — The Texas Compassionate Use Act is a milksop measure compared to the more muscular marijuana legislation lawmakers turned their backs on last week, but it’s the only cannabis reform likely to end up on Governor Greg Abbott’s desk in 2015. Texas lawmakers approved the bill, SB 339, which legalizes low-THC medical marijuana for the treatment of intractable seizures.
Although the bill has its problems, mere recognition that Cannabidiol (CBD) can confer medical benefits is a cause for celebration in Texas, among the most hard line of the cannabis prohibition states. “On a certain level, the legislature should be commended for acknowledging the medical value of marijuana, and it is an historic vote in that sense,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. However, Fazio noted that, “Some of the provisions in the bill simply make it unworkable.”
The bill not only ignores the needs of Texas patients suffering from conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis and PTSD, it also uses flawed wording. Doctors may “prescribe” marijuana to patients, action prohibited by federal law. To prescribe any controlled substance, Doctors must hold DEA registration, which could be revoked if they broke federal law be prescribing a banned substance like cannabis.
Despite its limitations, advocates say the bill is a start and could ultimately be expanded to help people with other debilitating conditions. Texans put up a colorful fight over the past year for a medical marijuana program that would allow cannabis and CBD-based medicines as treatments for a wide range of conditions. They came close when a new sheriff rode into town in the form of state Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) who introduced House Bill 2165, which would have fully legalized cannabis, going even further than Colorado’s laws.
Simpson’s bill caused quite the cannabis-quake as it rallied strange bedfellows in a political soap opera that often felt more like a script for the TV hit, Dallas than real time events. Texans witnessed a smorgasbord of drama, with prayer circles on the House steps, impassioned argument that God does not make mistakes, desperate pleas by veterans and stricken parents, and dramatic changes of fortune as the bill made it all the way through a House Committee only to be torpedoed before it got the House vote that might have silenced Texas-bashers.
Although the battle was lost, it looks like the campaign moved public opinion even in conservative bastions like West Texas, where new cannabis reform organizations have popped up and are attracting members from across the political spectrum.
Christopher Valenzuela, founder of the Odessa-based West Texas Movement for Marijuana Law Reform, says