It comes as no surprise that the traditionally conservative state of Texas has not jumped on the bandwagon of legal recreational marijuana, despite about 30 states having legalized cannabis in one form or another over the past decade. However, in the past year the state has made small steps towards legalizing the use of medical marijuana in extreme cases. In a somewhat predictable move, laws regarding who qualifies for a prescription as well as the types of products sold are far more restrictive than we have seen in any of the states preceding them.
In 2015, under the Compassionate Use Act, Texas legalized the use of CBD to treat extreme seizure disorders. The state allowed three groups of horticulturists to begin growing marijuana plants under strict supervision, however, the law also enforces very strict policies regarding production of low-level THC medical cannabis. Less than 0.5 percent, to be exact. Of the thousands of registered doctors in the state of Texas, less than 20 have been given the authority to prescribe the use of CBD oil to their patients who need two separate doctors to sign off on their prescriptions, making it exceedingly difficult to acquire the medication.
The medical marijuana program was set to take effect at the end of 2017, and so it is still too early to say whether the methods used by Texas lawmakers have been effective. However, marijuana advocates and users have been quick to point out the flaws of the system. First, the use of marijuana as a medical treatment is confined strictly to those suffering from extreme seizure disorders. Second, the prohibition of THC levels higher than 0.5 percent seems to directly contradict the success we have seen with the use of cannabis in other medical cases. Finally, the administration of the drug seems to be somewhat convoluted. Patients do not go to a specific site to get their CBD medication, but rather, it is delivered to them; a method which some say is ineffective.
Most states that have medical cannabis legislation in place have a list of conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and chronic pain, that they deem worthy of a prescription that go far beyond the overly restrictive Texas policy. Texas’s laws prohibit its citizens with these illnesses from accessing medication that could help them and has made no move to decriminalize the possession of any and all types of cannabis.
So, what is a cannabis user to do?
Many have taken matters into their own hands, acquiring their medicinal cannabis in a variety of ways, all of which are deemed illegal by the Texas government. Some, with no other viable options available to them, have taken to buying street cannabis and treating themselves. This is the more unpredictable option, as the patient cannot control the strain or THC levels in the product they are buying, and thus do not have medication tailored to their actual needs.
Others take it upon themselves to cross state lines into states that have legal recreational or medicinal cannabis, where they are able to purchase exactly what they need and bring it back home themselves. Both of options are not ideal, however, those who are serious about medical cannabis don’t find themselves with many other courses of action.
What is the takeaway?
For patients in Texas, it appears to be a long road towards the legalization of cannabis to treat the widely accepted list of conditions most states approve. While Texas has taken one small step forward, the harsh restrictions and ingrained attitudes of state politicians are another two steps back. Further progress in the #MarijuanaMovement seem to be moving at a snails pace.
To those in Texas looking to become part of the cannabis industry in a professional capacity, the job opportunities are not as abundant as in our neighboring states of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Competition for start-ups and research endeavors in the state is fierce. For now it might be best to gain training and experience out of state in preparation for what is to slowly come to Texas.
Although, it should be noted that last week the first legal CBD oil manufactured in Texas was administered to a 6 year old girl with epilepsy. So, while medical cannabis supporters may feel disappointed with the restrictive policies put in place, at least some who suffer from debilitating illness will hopefully know a moment’s peace due to the efforts of those working hard to move the cannabis needle in the big'ol' state of Texas.
Devin is a collector of random knowledge, entrepreneur, researcher and writer. Though she is a Texas native, she is currently writing abroad as well as acting as owner and operator of the blog Technically Adults. Follow her @overmydevbody or catch up on some reading at TechnicallyAdults.com!