(Last update: August 1, 2019)
Medical Marijuana: Yes(But Extremely Limited in Scope)
Recreational Marijuana: No
In-Home Cultivation: No
Political will for reform growing; small changes made this session
Despite minor victories, the Texas Legislature adjourned without passing any major cannabis reforms.
During the 2019 legislative session, the state expanded its low-THC medical marijuana program with the passage of HB 3703. The law added the following qualifying conditions: multiple sclerosis, ALS, terminal cancer, autism, spasticity, epilepsy, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases. Previously, only those with intractable epilepsy could qualify for medical marijuana. However, the 0.5% cap on THC was not repealed. The low-THC cap is the single biggest barrier for patient relief in Texas’ medical marijuana program.
Meanwhile, HB 1365, a bill that would have significantly expanded Texas’ medical marijuana program passed in the House of Representatives but was not heard in the Senate. Likewise, HB 63, a bill that would have decriminalized marijuana, passed in the House but was not heard in the Senate. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (D) — who serves as Senate president — was strongly opposed to the bill.
Texas launches low-THC medical marijuana program, but few can participate
In early 2018, the first sales of low-THC medical cannabis began in Texas, pursuant to the Compassionate Use Program. While the program is surely helping some patients, it is flawed, extremely limited, and leaves most patients behind.
Initially, only patients who suffered from serious seizure conditions could participate, leaving behind a huge number of Texans who suffer from other conditions, including cancer, PTSD, and many who will otherwise have to rely on opioid-based medicine. While the law was improved somewhat in 2019, when additional qualifying conditions were added, major flaws remain.
The law unnecessarily puts physicians at risk: State law requires physicians to write prescriptions for marijuana products, yet prescriptions for cannabis are clearly illegal under federal law, placing doctors at potential risk.
As noted, it is also limited to very low-THC cannabis.
Finally, the state approved only three companies to operate medical cannabis businesses in the entire state. Each serve as cultivator, processor, and dispensary for those patients in Texas who qualify.
In past years, lawmakers have proposed comprehensive programs, but none have passed. The legislature doesn’t reconvene again until 2021.