AUSTIN (Nexstar) — More Texans could soon have access to the state’s medical marijuana program after the Texas House approved a bill Wednesday that would expand eligibility to people who suffer from chronic pain.
The bipartisan legislation, HB 1805, was sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, who also chairs the House Public Health Committee. Since the state created the “Compassionate Use” law in 2015, it has expanded the type of conditions in which Texas patients can qualify for legal marijuana usage under the program.
Klick’s bill adds patients who suffer from chronic pain that would normally warrant an opioid prescription to be eligible for a 10-milligram dosage of cannabis, per their doctor. Texans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, ALS, cancer and epilepsy already qualify under the program.
Her bill passed 127-19 on Wednesday and will now head to the Senate. Despite some lawmakers voting against it, there was no debate on the House floor over the bill.
According to data from the Department of Public Safety — which oversees the online registry of qualified physicians who can prescribe medical cannabis — there are more the 50,000 Texas currently utilizing the program as of March 2023. For all of those patients, there are 707 physicians who are legally allowed to give prescriptions.
Klick’s bill would also change the definition of “low-THC cannabis” to 10 milligrams. Cannabis products are currently limited to 1% THC by weight. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis which produces the “high” associated with using marijuana. But patients who suffer from anxiety, PTSD, or chronic pain have reported the usage of cannabis helps alleviate their symptoms.
During a March committee hearing on the bill, Texas veterans like Ramona Harding told lawmakers how her usage of cannabis under the program had helped her in recovering from military trauma.
“It doesn’t make me high,” Harding, a Navy veteran said. “It just helps the pain subside so I can function.”
Texans like Elizabeth Miller may also be able to qualify soon if Klick’s bill passes in the Senate and is ultimately signed by the Governor. Miller, a Bedford resident, told the House Public Health Committee she has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a joint disease, and wants alternative treatment options.
“We need a medical cannabis program that is accessible to all Texans, regardless of their income or disability,” she said.
If passed into law, the act would take effect on Sept. 1.