Editorials

Get the ball rolling to expand medical marijuana in Texas

Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia have enabled the use of marijuana to treat PTSD, and the number has doubled just in the last two years amid increasingly visible advocacy from veterans' groups.
Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia have enabled the use of marijuana to treat PTSD, and the number has doubled just in the last two years amid increasingly visible advocacy from veterans' groups. AP

Within weeks an estimated 150,000 Texas patients suffering from untreatable epilepsy will have a new means of relief.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a form of medical marijuana, will finally be delivered to patients who qualify under the state’s very strict guidelines. The CBD reduces or halts convulsive epileptic seizures but doesn’t get the patients stoned.

Right now, the treatment will be available only for certain epilepsy patients, and it’s highly controlled.

We believe availability should be expanded for treatment of other conditions when there’s evidence those patients can be helped. We urge state lawmakers to begin work through the political and medical hurdles now so they can make that happen when they meet in 13 months.

There are several state legislators already gearing up for the debate and Texas Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, will be a leading voice.

Klick co-authored the 2015 legislation known as the Compassionate Use Act, which is making CBD available. She told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board it was initially “hard to sell this idea” to some Republican leaders including the governor and lieutenant governor. Skeptics worried that medical marijuana could be abused.

Klick said research provided evidence that CBD would benefit patients with epilepsy. She didn’t support an unsuccessful bill last year for treating other conditions, citing “inadequate research.”

Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, authored that 2017 bill, which would have made medical marijuana available in Texas to treat about 20 “debilitating medical conditions” including cancer, traumatic brain injury, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder. Menendez was especially vocal about expanding use for veterans with PTSD.

“Would we rather have them doped up on opioids?” Menendez asked the editorial board. “We have an opioid crisis in this country.”

Menendez said research can be skewed to benefit pharmaceutical companies and others who may not support greater availability of medical marijuana. He wants physicians to decide which patients receive the treatment.

On one thing, however, Klick and Menendez agree: There needs to be more state-sanctioned research into the effectiveness of medical marijuana. The federal government won’t support that research because it still considers marijuana illegal, even though 29 states have approved its use in some form.

Klick said she’s already working on a bill

“Texas is well-positioned with Tier One universities. They can do the research into cannabis,” she said. Klick believes private funding, not state tax dollars, will pay for the work.

While Menendez said much of the necessary evidence for expanding medical marijuana use is already available, he learned last session how difficult convincing lawmakers will be.

He said Klick’s idea for doing some home-grown research sounds like a good idea to get the ball rolling.

We urge Klick, Menendez and other like-minded lawmakers to put their heads together soon and identify common goals. The groundwork for getting this done must be laid before lawmakers convene in 2019.

This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. There are ailing people in Texas who need relief.

Let’s help them get it.

Over a thousand gathered Saturday at Burnett Park and marched to the Tarrant County Courthouse to push for legalization. Video by Matthew Martinez.

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