New bill aims to expand Texas medical marijuana program in 2017
A bill which would greatly expand Texas’ medical marijuana program has been pre-filed for the 2017 legislative session.
State Senator Jose Menendez, a Democrat out of San Antonio, filed SB 269, which would allow patients to receive a recommendation for medical cannabis from their doctor for a range of debilitating and painful conditions.
“Doctors, not politicians, should be determining what is best for Texas patients,” said Senator Menéndez. “This is legitimate medicine that can help a of variety people, from the grandmother suffering from cancer to the veteran coping with PTSD after returning home from war.”
During the 2015 legislative session, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act, which was intended to allow access to low-THC cannabis for those with intractable epilepsy. Sen. Menéndez’s bill will make several improvements, including fixing a fatal flaw in the bill, allowing cannabis with any amount of THC, and expanding the law to include other qualifying conditions.
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, a bill Sen. Menendez co-authored and helped pass.
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.
A coalition of groups formed under the national political organization Marijuana Policy Project called Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy have already set up a website to help Texans interested in supporting the bill contact their legislators and increase the chances for its passage.
The 85th Texas Legislative session will begin on January 10, 2017.
Watch video of the press conference here.