Should more Texans be able to use CBD oil? The Senate will decide on medical cannabis

Plans to let more Texans use medical cannabis oil are making their way through the Capitol.

Two bills to help those with ailments ranging from Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis passed the House and have been sent to the upper chamber, where some wonder if there’s enough time or political will to take up the issue with two weeks left in this legislative session.

It’s “going to take a lot of work, but senators have already heard from thousands of their constituents in support of ... the medical freedom it would bring Texas patients,” said Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

“The least our legislators can do is expand access for the severely ill if their doctor thinks it can help alleviate their suffering.”

More than 30 states allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Texas lawmakers have until the end of their legislative session, May 27, to pass laws.

CBD oil comes from the hemp plant, which is related to the marijuana plant. CBD extract doesn’t contain THC, which helps patients receive the benefit without the high, lawmakers say.

These bills do not address the CBD stores that have been opening across the state, even though some law enforcers — who maintain CBD oil sales are only legal with a prescription — have asked the Legislature for clarity.

Law enforcers say the oil is illegal in Texas, except for when legally prescribed. Some disagree, saying the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp, makes it legal to buy and use the oil. And North Texans do that online and through a variety of stores.

Duncanville police earlier this year raided at least two smoke shops, seizing “hundreds of pounds of CBD oil” and other items.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office has said CBD oil is only legal under the 2015 Compassionate Use Act, which made cannabis oil legal for Texans with intractable epilepsy. Others buying or selling CBD oil are breaking the law, District Attorney Sharen Wilson has said.

Senate bound

Companion bills addressing the expansion of CBD oil have yet to be heard in Senate committee hearings.

State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, has said he’s talked to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick about what he would like to see this session. Patrick is opposed to expanding access to medical marijuana in Texas.

“His comment to me directly was, ‘I want to make sure what consumers are buying is the real deal,’” Perry told the media earlier this month.

Here’s a look at two CBD proposals that have passed the House and been sent to the Senate.

A limited approach

State Rep. Stephanie Klick, a Fort Worth Republican and former nurse who authored the Compassionate Use Act, proposes House Bill 3703.

Her measure would let Texans with multiple sclerosis, spasticity and any form of epilepsy use the oil.

“I have seen the benefits of expanding the condition list,” Klick told lawmakers when presenting the measure.

Her bill also removes a requirement that two doctors need to write a prescription for eligible patients. The measure also creates a medical cannabis research program at one or more medical schools in Texas.

The House approved this bill on a 133-10 vote.

A broader plan

State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, proposes letting even more Texans use CBD oil through HB 1365.

Among them are those with Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette syndrome, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis and autism.

His bill also lets there be as many as a dozen dispensaries in Texas, up from the current three, to grow and distribute the oil.

“What we are doing here is giving, patients, veterans, kids, terminally ill cancer patients, various groups of folks suffering from Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders, giving them access to a medicine that significantly improves their quality of life,” Lucio said.

The House approved this bill on a 128-20 vote.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.