House passes bill to allow cannabis-derived epilepsy treatments

Updated May 18, 2015

With a 96-34 vote in the Texas House on Monday, both chambers of the Legislature have passed for the first time a bill to allow the medical use of a cannabis-derived product in Texas.

State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, carried Senate Bill 339 for state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, to allow patients who suffer from a certain form of epilepsy to be treated legally with cannabidiol. CBD, as it is better-known, is one of dozens of compounds found in the marijuana plant. But unlike its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, cannabidiol doesn’t produce a high or sense of euphoria.

The treatment has shown “remarkable promise” and would be used only when other options have failed, Klick said.

The law would allow state-regulated entities to legally grow and dispense cannabidiol.

The proposal was very narrowly written. It will allow only people with intractable epilepsy to be treated with CBD, which would be ingested and not smoked. It also says that two physicians would have to recommend it after at least two other treatments failed to help and after all federally approved drugs have been proven to be unavailable or inappropriate.

Leslie Moccia of San Antonio brought her son Zach, a 25-year-old epilepsy patient who uses a wheelchair, to hear the debate on the bill. Their trip to Austin marks the end of a months-long effort to persuade lawmakers that CBD can make a difference in the lives of people with epilepsy, especially those with the more severe form known as Dravet Syndrome.

Zach suffers from about ten small seizures every day and larger ones every month or so.

“I am hoping that he will find some relief,” Moccia said. “Even if it doesn’t help Zach, I know it is going to help other kids.”

Opponents of the bill — such as the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas — had expressed worries about long-term effects of CBD on young persons’ developing minds and a possible pathway for loosening drug laws.

The proposal now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott for consideration. The governor’s press office declined to comment.