Texas could soon be the next state to legalize the use of medical marijuana, joining 28 other states and the District of Columbia.
State Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) will file a bill Tuesday to allow people with debilitating and chronic medical conditions to get cannabis under the recommendation and consultation of their doctor, his office said Monday.
Cancer, PTSD, autism, HIV, severe pain and nausea, and Parkinson's are just a few of the ailments that would qualify. Senator Menendez told KHOU he believes veterans who are in pain but don’t want to risk addiction and side effects from prescription drugs especially could benefit from legalization.
Dwight Clark, Legislative Director for Sen. Menendez, says the bill does not specify the amount of cannabis patients can get and in what form because the senator believes doctors should make that call, not politicians.
Clark says patients would receive cannabis through a network of private dispensaries and operators, similar to pharmacies, regulated under “strict guidelines” by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The state would use existing infrastructure and build upon the registry already established under the Compassionate Use Act, or SB 339, a 2015 bill Sen. Menendez co-authored and helped pass that lets patients with intractable epilepsy receive low-THC cannabis oil.
Registered patients would show a card to verify their status to the dispensaries, who would then log the transaction into a database to protect against abuse. DPS would monitor all activity.
Clark says the program would be “cost neutral” because expenses would be offset by licensing and registration fees paid to the state by cultivators and operators.
Sen. Menendez says he’s “cautiously optimistic” the bill could pass, though he says he’s a “realist” and understands the conservative makeup of the legislature.
“I would hope that people don’t just refuse to listen to the upside of this without an open public hearing,” said Sen. Menendez, who says he’s hoping to build off the success of SB 339.
If this current bill passes, the senator says he would like to arrange a meeting with Governor Greg Abbott, who has previously said he won’t allow medical marijuana, along with doctors and veterans.
The 85th Texas Legislative session will begin on Jan. 10, 2017.