Texas lawmakers pass bill to expand use of medical cannabis in form of CBD oil

More Texans soon may be able to legally use medical cannabis, or CBD oil.

Just days after news broke about a 72-year-old grandmother being arrested at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for carrying CBD oil, state House members gave final approval to a measure letting Texans suffering from medical conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to terminal cancer use the oil that comes from the hemp plant, which is related to the marijuana plant.

“For people with chronic conditions like neurodegenerative diseases and terminal cancer, it’s very important to those patients,” said state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, a former nurse who authored House Bill 3703.

The measure — approved on a 136-5 vote, with all Tarrant County members voting in support — now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott for his consideration.

If signed into law, this bill expands the 2015 Compassionate Use Act, also shepherded through the Legislature by Klick, which made cannabis oil legal for Texans with intractable epilepsy.

Klick initially proposed also letting those with multiple sclerosis, spasticity and any form of epilepsy use the oil as well. The Senate further expanded the list, adding seizure disorders, terminal cancer, autism and ALS — and the House agreed.

“Even with these changes, the Compassionate Use Program is unreasonably restrictive, leaving behind the vast majority of patients who could benefit from medical cannabis,” said Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “It is unconscionable that we would continue denying very sick people access to medicine.”

Fazio also said she’s concerned about the lack of third-party testing for consumer protection.

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

CBD oil

CBD extract doesn’t contain THC, which helps patients receive the benefit without the high, lawmakers say.

Law enforcers say CBD 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.

Klick’s bill does not address the CBD stores that have been opening across the state.

Reports recently showed Lena Bartula, a 72-year-old who grew up in Fort Worth, was among those who have been arrested for carrying CBD oil. She was at DFW Airport; the oil was in her luggage.

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 Compassionate Use Act. Others buying or selling CBD oil are breaking the law, District Attorney Sharen Wilson has said.

A separate bill in the Legislature, HB 1325, might address the issue. That measure lets Texas farmers legally grow industrial hemp.

This bill would take hemp off the state’s controlled substance list and, it is believed, legalize hemp and extracts such as CBD oil, if they don’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC. The bill needs final approval from the House before being sent to the governor fro consideration.

Lawmakers have until Monday, the last day of the legislative session, to pass laws.

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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.