Texas: Senate Approves Unworkable Medical Marijuana Bill


House will now consider measure that is intended to allow access to low-THC marijuana extract for qualifying seizure patients

The Texas State Senate on Thursday approved a bill 26-5 that is intended to allow qualifying patients with intractable seizure conditions to access a marijuana extract containing high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, and only trace levels of THC. SB 339, introduced by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), will now be considered by the state House of Representatives.

“We’re pleased to see a majority of the Senate recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana, but it’s of little comfort if patients aren’t able to experience them,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Texas needs a comprehensive medical marijuana program that allows patients to take full advantage of the various compounds found in different types of marijuana.”

SB 336 requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions. By contrast, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana or “certify” patients to use medical marijuana in the 23 states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia.

Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.

“Some of the provisions in the bill simply make it unworkable,” Fazio said. “Over a dozen states have passed similar laws in recent years, and just about all of them have been dead on arrival. Texas can do a better job, and the bill can be amended in the House so it can function.”

The bill also only allows for extracts with very little THC, and some seizure patients say a greater ratio of THC to CBD is necessary for it to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The bill also fails to allow access to any medical marijuana products for people suffering from other debilitating conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis, for which medical marijuana has been found to have significant medical benefits.

“I’m sure the senators who voted for this bill meant well, but it wouldn’t work for my little girl, and that is disappointing,” said Dean Bortell, whose nine-year-old daughter, Alexis, suffers from a seizure disorder and has only found relief from medical marijuana with higher ratios of THC to CBD.

“We’d like to return to Texas and be home again, but can’t until the laws change,” said Bortell, whose family currently resides in Colorado with Alexis.

Fourteen states have adopted laws that allow limited access to products containing CBD. Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws.

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy

Graphic: Progress Texas