Can this type of medical cannabis save lives?
Some advice to any Texan buying CBD oil: Watch out.
That’s the tip from state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, who is working on legislation to clarify the legality of cannabidiol oil, a product increasingly available online and in stores across North Texas.
CBD oil is illegal in Texas, except for those suffering from intractable epilepsy who have a prescription to buy it. Also, there are no safeguards to make sure ingredients in the medicine sold over the counter match what is listed on the bottle.
“The most important aspect of this is that the buyer needs to beware,” said Klick, who in 2015 shepherded the Texas Compassionate Use Act that made CBD oil legal for some. “People need to know they are taking a risk right now.
“The legal status is at the very least muddy,” she said. “Also, you don’t know what is really in that bottle. There’s no mechanism to certify it. There could be bad stuff in there.”
Except for those prescribed CBD oil, marijuana use for medical or recreational reasons is illegal in Texas even as nearly three dozen other states have legalized various forms of it.
But recently, the oil has become popular in various stores across North Texas. An entire store devoted to selling CBD products ranging from oil to bath bombs to collagen cream opened in Keller.
“I am surprised that it has sprung up like this,” Klick said. “There’s a whole lot of misinformation out there. Even some law enforcement is confused.”
Here’s a look at some measures lawmakers may consider this legislative session that runs through Memorial Day.
CBD oil comes from the hemp plant, which is related to the marijuana plant. The CBD extract doesn’t contain any tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high. This form of the marijuana plant, lawmakers have said, lets a patient get the benefits without the high.
But Klick, a former nurse, said she’s concerned about reports showing that some CBD oil sold around the country has been contaminated.
In Utah, 52 CBD users were believed to be poisoned last year. At least nine samples showed the oil they used was falsely labeled as CBD.
Last year in Houston, police raided smoke shops to confiscate CBD oil that earlier tests showed included the same chemical found in the illegal drug known as kush.
And Klick said other reports have shown some CBD oils sold contained Viagra and others ended up just being olive oil.
She’s working on a bill to require independent tests to show that bottles of CBD oil actually contain the ingredients listed on the label — and nothing else.
Anyone in Texas who possesses CBD oil with any trace of THC can be charged with a felony for possession of a controlled substance that carries a punishment of between 180 days in a state jail and 20 years in prison.
Expanding compassionate act
At the same time, the act now requires two doctors to prescribe the medicine. Klick said she would like to change that so just one doctor would have to write a prescription.
She also plans to propose a research initiative to gather more information about the benefits of CBD oil for Texas.
“There’s all kind of bogus information on the net,” Klick said. “We need to separate fact from fiction.”
All this comes at a time when some say they believe the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp, means that it’s legal for Texans to buy and use CBD oil.
“We haven’t legalized hemp in Texas,” Klick said. “Because of that, I believe those products are not legal.”
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office has weighed in as well, saying CBD oil is only legal under the Compassionate Use Act.
A statement from that office notes that the Farm Bill reclassified industrial hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent concentration of THC.
“Texas has not legalized hemp,” according to the statement from District Attorney Sharen Wilson.
In order to legalize the possession and sale of these products, Wilson wrote, the state’s commissioner of health must remove marijuana extract from the Controlled Substances Schedule.
Wilson noted that her office filed nearly 50,000 criminal cases last year. “We have not spent and do not expect to spend significant resources on cases involving CBD oil,” she said.
Other bills address medical cannabis or marijuana.
House Bill 1365, by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Austin, would expand the use of medical cannabis to other “debilitating medical conditions” including cancer, HIV, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Senate Bill 400 by state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, would allow medical cannabis — by any means other than smoking — to be used for debilitating medical conditions as well. His list of conditions includes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
HB 1405 by state Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, would allow low-THC cannabis to be prescribed to “hospice-eligible” patients, those with terminal illnesses expected to live six months or less.
HB 186, by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, deals with the weight of the illegal marijuana extract.
HB 551, by Canales, could change the penalty structure, if adopted.
“There have been some other bills filed regarding medical marijuana and hemp and so forth,” said Klick, who has long opposed legalizing marijuana for recreational use. “We will have to see which approach the membership of the Legislature supports.”