Few Patients Benefit From Medical Cannabis Under Texas Law
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Fewer than 600 of an estimated 150,000 Texas patients with uncontrollable epileptic seizures have been prescribed a low-THC oil derived from cannabis under the state's restrictive medical marijuana program.
Roughly 45 doctors have signed up to prescribe cannabidiol, or CBD, almost a year after the first marijuana plants were legally harvested in Texas, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The state's therapeutic marijuana program under the Texas Compassionate Use Act grants only patients with intractable epilepsy access to cannabidiol with low THC, the compound that gives pot its high.
The law took effect in 2015, but the rollout has been slow.
Just three companies in central Texas have been licensed to distribute the drug. One doesn't seem to have opened yet and another has reported financial losses because of a small client base.
State lawmakers are pushing proposals that would loosen THC restrictions and give more patients access, including people with cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious medical conditions.
Some advocates are looking to modify the program's language because many doctors are reluctant to enroll due to the requirement that they would have to prescribe the drug instead of recommend it. Recommendations are used in other states to sidestep federal laws, which still classify marijuana as illegal.
The Texas House has been receptive to expanding medical cannabis use, but the state Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott have expressed resistance to such changes.
"This is not a liberal or conservative issue, this is a medical issue," said Democratic state Sen. Jose Menendez, who filed a bill to expand the program to cover 20 other conditions and allow higher THC levels. "Why do we as a Legislature get to think we know better than the doctors? Why are we limiting this and keeping people that have glaucoma, MS, cancer, from having access?"
Several marijuana-related proposals are on the docket for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.