One of the main questions about the use of medical marijuana in the US is whether it’s legal and what are its implications. Currently, 37 states and Washington DC have medical marijuana programs in place, with a variety of restrictions, permissions and approved rights to cultivate.
With the establishment of the Compassionate Use Program Texas joined the list in 2015. Although the law has introduced some flexibility for the use of medical marijuana statewide over the years, Texas is still one of the states with more restrictive use of this treatment alternative. This comes as no surprise given that the use of cannabis is still subject to controversy on the national stage, and more so in Texas where only 29% of the population approves the legalization of marijuana for any purpose as stated by a recent poll from the University of Texas.
Despite the headwinds, with the introduction and evolution of the Compassionate Use Program Texas has made significant advances in the implementation of medical marijuana as a successful treatment alternative for thousands of patients in the Lone Star State.
Is weed legal in Texas?
Given the known benefits of marijuanas for medical use, some patients might be wondering “is weed legal in Texas?” The use of weed for recreational purposes is illegal in Texas. Indeed, possession of marijuana can be considered a misdemeanor or even a felony and it’s punishable by law with prison time and penalty fees that can go from $2,000 to $50,000 (depending on the quantity in possession).
But in contrast to regular weed, the use of medical marijuana was legalized in the Lone Star state in 2015 and legislation has been expanded throughout the years. It’s important to clarify that more than the marijuana plant itself, what is considered illegal is the use or possession of one of the main components of the plant, a cannabinoid known as THC which is the substance responsible for the psychoactive effects in marijuana. When it comes to THC, the law establishes clear restrictions about its legal accessibility, use and authorized forms and quantities.
Legalizing cannabis for medical use in Texas
Legalizing cannabis for medical use in Texas was a process that came to fruition in 2015 with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 339) under Governor Greg Abbott and has continued to evolve ever since. A key component that helped move the process along initially was acknowledging that at the time, thousands of Texan patients suffered from intractable epilepsy and medical marijuana was the only hope left for them, particularly for children.
In 2019, Texas legislature enacted Texas House Bill 3703 expanding eligibility for medical marijuana to many other medical conditions in addition to intractable epilepsy including terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, ALS, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, autism, spasticity and many incurable neurodegenerative diseases. This bill also lifted the requirement of having two qualified physicians recommending the use of this type of treatment, simplifying the process to require only one qualified physician’s recommendation.
More recently, with the enactment of Texas House Bill 1535 in 2021 the list of eligible medical conditions was expanded once again. With so many changes you might be wondering what illness qualifies for medical marijuanas in Texas, so let us give you the current list:
- Other seizure disorders
- Incurable neurodegenerative diseases
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
In addition to the above, the bill also granted authorization for other medical conditions deemed as eligible by the Health and Human Services Commission where treatment of patients with low-THC products is authorized as part of an approved research program. This bill also increased the cap of low-THC from 0.5% to 1% by weight.
Only the patients who suffer from eligible medical conditions as established by law can have legal access to medical marijuana in Texas through the Compassionate Use Program managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). In addition to establishing a list of limited eligible medical conditions, the law also indicates that medical marijuana can only be dispensed in certain forms (tinctures and edibles) and determines specific limits in terms of the weight and ratios of the plant’s main cannabinoids in the products dispensed (as previously stated, THC is capped at 1%).
Also, to have access to approved cannabis treatment patients must obtain the recommendation from a qualified physician registered in the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT), which facilitates monitoring and control of the authorities to prevent more than one physician registering as the prescriber to any single patient.
The use of medical marijuana in Texas has seen an interesting evolution over the last few years and today, millions of Texans are eligible to benefit from this course of treatment.
Nonetheless, there is still much more that could be done to continue to expand the program to many other patients whose prognosis could dramatically improve if they had access to medical marijuana. This is why we continue to advocate for the expansion of the Compassionate Use Program to include conditions such as chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, anxiety, IBS and many more.
You can help by getting involved and joining us in our advocacy efforts to reach that goal, urging your legislators to support adding more medical conditions to the Texas Compassionate Use Program.