Medical marijuana bill filed in special Texas legislative session
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called state legislators back to Austin for a special legislative session. Lawmakers began filing legislation today, and one of them revives a medical marijuana bill from earlier this year.
Now called HB 85, the bill is somewhat identical to HB 2107 which establishes a whole plant medical marijuana program. Both bills were filed by Rep. Eddy Lucio III (D-Brownsville).
“My staff and I are ready to consider and vote on all bills during this Special Session,” Rep. Lucio III stated. “But I believe there are just as important items that must be addressed in our state, so important that I too have filed a bill crucial to so many people across the state and across our nation.”
He added, “As of today, I have filed house bill 85 ‘relating to authorizing the possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by patience with certain deliberating medical conditions and the licensing of dispensing organizations and cannabis testing facilities’. In other words, I have re-filed HB 2107, the same bill I filed during the regular session.”
Rep. Lucio III continued, “I am hopeful that the leadership and the Governor genuinely considers the immediate need of medical cannabis for medical use. I will do my part and ask our Governor to add this item to the call this Special Session and I urge you and I encourage you to do the same. I will continue pushing this bill and will continue to work hard to pass this legislation and won’t stop until it becomes law.”
Fewer patients would be included in HB 85 than in HB 2107, including those with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, autism, or Parkinson’s disease.
The bill garnered support from 78 of the 150 legislators in the Texas House of Representatives, and passed out of committee with major concessions. It was never scheduled by the Calendars Committee however, and lost any chance of being heard by the full chamber despite a last ditch effort by Rep. Lucio to call a special Calendars session to put the bill on the House’s agenda.
The special session begins on Tuesday, July 18 and Governor Abbott has laid out a list of 20 issues he expects legislators to tackle over the 30 day session. Medical marijuana is not on that list.
“A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session,” Abbott stated after announcing the new session. “As Governor, if I am going to call a special session, I intend to make it count.”
Similar to the regular legislative session, bills are filed, assigned to committee, are subjected to public hearing, and then voted on before being sent to their respective chamber of the House or Senate.
Ross Ramsey, Executive Editor of The Texas Tribune, explained that the process is restrictive however.
“They can file all the bills they want,” Ramsey explained, “the only bills they can kind of legally consider are the ones the governor has put on the call.”
This means that despite a medical marijuana bill being filed, it is unlikely to go anywhere unless the governor supports it.
Governor Abbott has been on record in the past saying he would not take any steps to legalize marijuana, though he made these statements as he signed a CBD-extract medical marijuana bill into law in 2015. That program, which is designed for pediatric seizure patients, is set to go into effect on September 1 of 2017.
The program has numerous issues however and many doubt that the program will even be workable at this point due to the law requiring doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, which is federally a Schedule I substance, rather than recommend it as other states require. Doctors would have to risk their prescribing abilities and possibly their license in order to admit patients to this program.
It is unlikely that all 20 issues laid out by the governor will be addressed, making other issues even more unlikely to be added.
“Twenty issues is a lot. Even if the legislature is in a really good mood and everybody is getting along, and everyone’s running in the same direction at the same pace, 20 is a lot to do in 30 days. I think some of these issues are not going to see the light of day,” said Ramsey.
(Article updated to reflect the number of legislators who signed on to HB 2107 and the patients covered under the new bill.)