Time to broaden medical marijuana


Large crowd participates in Saturday's DFW NORML Marijuana March in downtown Fort Worth, May 7, 2016.
Large crowd participates in Saturday's DFW NORML Marijuana March in downtown Fort Worth, May 7, 2016. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

When the Texas Legislature convenes in January, lawmakers should consider making the Compassionate Use Act more inclusive.

Right now, state law allows only a tiny amount of cannabis oil to be prescribed to a patient with intractable epilepsy by a doctor who treats epilepsy and is on the Compassionate Use Registry.

When Texas passed the law last year, one of the authors told Star-Telegram reporter Anna M. Tinsley it was like legalizing grape juice instead of wine. There are also benefits in the “wine,” but in moderation.

Medicinal cannabis has been prescribed for epilepsy, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder — all chronic disorders with medications that can take a hefty toll on their users.

A Grapevine 10-year-old and her mother recently moved from Grapevine to California. Grace Lummus-Nickell hopes for a medicinal marijuana prescription to manage her pain from bone disease.

The medications prescribed to Grace didn’t eliminate all the pain and caused issues internally, her mother, Suzanne Lummus, told the Star-Telegram’s Mitch Mitchell.

“They prescribe her pain meds, which tear up her stomach lining and make her constipated, then prescribe her more drugs to mask the side effects. And even at the high doses that they prescribe, she’s still in pain,” Lummus said.

Overall, medicinal marijuana is currently not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“It is this rigorous FDA approval process, not popular vote, that should determine what is, and what is not medicine,” the Office of National Drug Control Policy says on its website. “The raw marijuana plant, which contains nearly 500 different chemical compounds, has not met the safety and efficacy standards of this process.”

But synthetic versions of some of those chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, are in FDA-approved medications.

Cannabinoid drugs have a lot of potential, but not enough research, or funding, to back them up.

If the Legislature broadened the Compassionate Use Act to involve more chronic diseases, that could help create more research for cannabinoid drugs and allow a possibly safer medication alternative.