A Texas House committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would legalize marijuana in the state as a medical treatment option for a wide range of health conditions, including chronic pain, cancer, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The hearing – in the House Public Health Committee, chaired by state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo — marks a victory of sorts for advocates of medical marijuana in Texas. Last week, about two dozen supporters rallied at the state Capitol and urged Price and state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, to hold hearings on two medical marijuana bills that have been languishing in their committees for weeks.
Price’s hearing Tuesday over House Bill 2107 will take place in room E2.012 in the Capitol. The meeting begins at 8 a.m., but it’s unclear when the HB 2107 hearing will start because the Public Health Committee is holding a number of other hearings as well.
Senate Bill 269, which is in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, is a companion bill to HB 2107. Schwertner, who chairs the committee, hasn’t scheduled a hearing on SB 269.
Two years ago, Texas lawmakers approved what’s known as the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing oils made from cannabidiol for medical purposes. Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, is found in marijuana plants but doesn’t produce euphoria or a high.
However, that law, which has yet to have any impact because the first Texas CBD dispensaries won’t be licensed until this summer, restricts the compound’s use only to certain patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy, and only after they’ve first tried two conventional drugs that prove to be ineffective. Advocates for medical marijuana have said the Compassionate Use Act is so restrictive it’s useless for most people.
The Compassionate Use Act “currently only permits patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to access specific types of medical marijuana that have been found to be ineffective for some patients,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a prepared statement heralding Tuesday’s committee hearing. “It also requires doctors to ‘prescribe’ medical marijuana, which is not possible under federal law.”
Fazio called the act “unworkable” in its current form.
The Marijuana Policy Project is a national non-profit group focused on reforming marijuana laws.
HB 2107 would legalize medical use of all parts of the marijuana plant in Texas - including tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which does induce a high for users - for any doctor-corroborated debilitating health condition.