All posts by Heather Fazio

There’s A Useless Medical Marijuana Bill Sitting on Greg Abbott’s Desk

Dallas Observer | May 20, 2015

First, the good news that really isn’t good news at all, but whatever. As of late Monday afternoon’s 96-34 Texas House vote, both chambers of the Legislature have passed medical marijuana reform legalization. Texans who suffer from intractable epilepsy and are able to get their hands on low-THC cannabidiol oil will not be prosecuted.

As has been said over and over again by advocates for medical marijuana, legalizing cannabidiol oil, especially the low-THC version allowed by the Texas bill, is not enough. Treatment is not available to all the people who could be helped, and keeping THC content to 5 percent or lower takes options away from doctors. (THC is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high.)

“Texas claims to hate Obamacare as a government and yet we’re about to pass our own version of Obamacare where the government mandates not only the medicine, but the dosing,” Dean Bortell, the father of Alexis Bortell, a 9-year-old girl with intractable epilepsy said in February. “We need to leave the dosing decision up to the doctors. They can stay [with] oils. We’re not saying they have to allow plants and smoking, not at all, we’re not saying that at all. The bill can be saved with oils, but leave the dosing to the professionals.”

Alexis Bortell, who’s become one of the faces of medical marijuana reform in Texas, moved to Colorado in February after a particularly vicious seizure. Since being able to start medical marijuana treatment — she takes cannabidiol oil that has high THC content — her seizures have been reduced from about one a day to about one a month. The medicine she takes will still be illegal in Texas, even if Governor Abbott signs the passed bill into law.

There’s an even bigger problem with the bill beyond all that, though. As passed, the bill requires doctors to prescribe the cannabidiol oil to patients. That’s against federal law. In the 23 states where some form of medical marijuana is legal, doctors are allowed to recommend marijuana therapy or certify that a person is eligible.

“Nearly half of the states in the country have effectively implemented medical marijuana programs, and I have no doubt Texas could adopt an even better one,” Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project said. “We need a law that ensures seriously ill patients who could benefit from medical marijuana are able to access it. There is no reason to put it off any longer.”

Still, Fazio and her organization want Abbott to sign the bill, despite the fact that “[n]ot a single patient will be helped by [the] legislation.”

“Even if doctors are unwilling to ‘prescribe’ marijuana, starting the implementation process will ensure a system of safe access is ready to go when the Legislature meets in 2017 — at which point it can fix the flaw and expand access to patients with other serious conditions,” Fazio said.

 

Limited medical marijuana bill clears Texas Legislature

Texas House Approves Flawed Medical Marijuana Bill; Measure Will Go to Gov. Abbott for His Signature

Bill is intended to allow access to low-THC marijuana extracts for qualifying seizure patients; House fails to pass amendment to fix major problem
Jo-Carolyn Goode | 5/19/2015, 8:50 a.m.
Style Magazine

AUSTIN — The Texas State House approved a bill 96-34 on

Texas Governor, Greg Abbott
Texas Governor, Greg Abbott

Monday intended to allow qualifying patients with intractable seizure conditions to access a marijuana extract containing high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, and only trace levels of THC. SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), is extremely unlikely to provide patients with relief because it requires doctors to engage in conduct that is prohibited by federal law. SB 339 previously passed the Senate on May 7. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Read more here: http://stylemagazine.com/news/2015/may/19/texas-house-approves-flawed-medical-marijuana-bill/

Medical marijuana changes life for Texas girl

By Jason Whitely, WFAA
May 19, 2015

“We’re not seeing symptom reduction. We’re seeing symptom elimination.”

DENVER – Growing up in Texas, the threat of seizures always prevented Alexis Bortell from riding a bicycle.

“There’s a big difference, because in Colorado I’ve had a decrease in seizures, and in Texas I had them every day,” the nine-year-old told us. No seizures means no restrictions on bikes.

A frightening seizure that Alexis experienced in February prompted the Bortells to move from Rowlett to a Denver suburb.

“I thought I was going to lose her,” dad Dean Bortell explained.

Read more here: http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/health/2015/05/18/medical-marijuana-drastically-cuts-texas-girls-seizures/27552541/

Texas House Approves Worthless Medical Marijuana Bill, Likely Will Become Law

By Mike Adams
High Times | May 19, 2015

Texas may be on its way to legalizing medical marijuana, but many proponents say the bill is completely worthless in its current form. Nevertheless, the state’s House of Representatives put their preliminarily seal of approval on a measure earlier this week, aimed at providing “low-THC” cannabis oil to patients suffering from epilepsy and other chronic conditions.

Senate Bill 339, which was introduced by Senator Kevin Eltife, was passed by the state Senate in early May. On Monday, the House announced its support for the measure in a vote of 96 to 34, a move that has earned the “Texas Compassionate Use Act” a ticket to Governor Greg Abbott’s office for either his signature or a veto.

Marijuana activists claim this toe-in-the-water approach to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program will do nothing to actually provide patients who qualify under its restrictive nature with the medicine they need. The Marijuana Policy Project’s Heather Fazio recently pointed out in an interview with CBS News that it will be impossible for patients to get their hands on cannabis oil because the legislation forces doctors to “prescribe” the herb rather than issue recommendations. This, of course, is a major cause for concern since it is illegal in the eyes of the federal government for physicians to “prescribe” cannabis. And doing so could result in the revocation of their license to prescribe all medications.

“Lawmakers missed several opportunities to amend the bill in ways that could have provided real relief to countless Texans.” Fazio said. “Not a single patient will be helped by this legislation.”

Read more here: http://www.hightimes.com/read/texas-house-approves-worthless-medical-marijuana-bill-likely-will-become-law

Frank Snyder: A single word in bill could neutralize Texas’ medical marijuana efforts

In writing legislation, choosing the right language is important.

Professor Franklin Snyder, A&M School of Law
Professor Franklin Snyder, A&M School of Law

That is true at the federal level, where the future of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is in now serious doubt before the Supreme Court because it is not clear what Congress meant by a single four-word phrase in one section of a 2,700-page bill.

It’s equally true in Texas, where a much-needed and widely supported bill now moving through the Legislature will fail to do what the legislators who support it hope it will do, because it unwittingly uses a single inappropriate term in several critical places. The Texas legislators backing the new Texas Compassionate-Use Act, though, have a big advantage over Obamacare supporters now arguing their case before the nation’s highest court: they still have time to fix the problem before it becomes law.

The Compassionate-Use Act (SB 339) allows patients with intractable epilepsy to obtain “low-THC” marijuana if a Texas physician who specializes in the area and who has exhausted other treatment options recommends use. Low-THC marijuana contains compounds that provide significant medical benefits, but does not contain significant amounts of THC, the chemical in weed that gets you stoned. It’s like wine that does not contain alcohol. Not even a toddler can get high on low-THC marijuana, while the substance provides many of the legitimate medical benefits found in the cannabis plant. It is safe enough that it is routinely recommended for children in many U.S. states.

The act has wide and bipartisan support in the Texas Legislature. The sponsors, Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) and Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), along with the legislators who support them, clearly want to bring a safe and much-needed product to a group of people — many of them children — who desperately need their help. But a review of federal laws and the experience of other states make it very clear that unless the language is changed, the act will not accomplish what the legislators intend.

Read more here: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20150518-frank-snyder-wrong-wording-in-pot-bill-might-result-in-the-bad-prescription.ece

Texas House Approves Flawed Medical Marijuana Bill; Measure Will Go to Gov. Abbott for His Signature

For Immediate Release
Monday, May 18, 2015

Contact
Heather Fazio
512-825-9142, hfazio@mpp.org

Texas House Approves Flawed Medical Marijuana Bill; Measure Will Go to Gov. Abbott for His Signature

Bill is intended to allow access to low-THC marijuana extracts for qualifying seizure patients; House fails to pass amendment to fix major problem

AUSTIN — The Texas State House approved a bill 96-34 on Monday intended to allow qualifying patients with intractable seizure conditions to access a marijuana extract containing high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, and only trace levels of THC. SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), is extremely unlikely to provide patients with relief because it requires doctors to engage in conduct that is prohibited by federal law. SB 339 previously passed the Senate on May 7. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott.

“On a certain level, the legislature should be commended for acknowledging the medical value of marijuana, and it is an historic vote in that sense,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Lawmakers missed several opportunities to amend the bill in ways that could have provided real relief to countless Texans. Not a single patient will be helped by this legislation.”

SB 339 requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions. By contrast, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana or “certify” patients to use medical marijuana in the 23 states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia. Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.

“Nearly half of the states in the country have effectively implemented medical marijuana programs, and I have no doubt Texas could adopt an even better one,” Fazio said. “We need a law that ensures seriously ill patients who could benefit from medical marijuana are able to access it. There is no reason to put it off any longer.”

The bill also only allows for extracts with very little THC, and some seizure patients say a greater ratio of THC to CBD is necessary for it to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The bill also fails to allow access to any medical marijuana products for people suffering from other debilitating conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, for which medical marijuana has been found to have significant medical benefits.

Despite SB 339’s significant limitations, advocates support Gov. Abbott signing it into law and promptly implementing the program. It has frequently taken as long as two to three years for patients to begin safely accessing medical cannabis preparations after state medical marijuana laws are enacted. First, rules need to be crafted for the operation of dispensaries, then there is an application process, and finally the providers must find locations, build out their facilities, and begin cultivation.

“Even if doctors are unwilling to ‘prescribe’ marijuana, starting the implementation process will ensure a system of safe access is ready to go when the legislature meets in 2017 — at which point it can fix the flaw and expand access to patients with other serious conditions,” said Fazio.

“It is well established that cannabis can help with pain, nausea, and weight loss. In addition, a placebo-control study in Israel found that complete remission was achieved in five out of 11 subjects who were administered medical cannabis,” said Larry Talley, a retired Navy veteran from Dallas who suffers from Crohn’s disease. “I served my country with pride; now I live in pain every day. I deserve the freedom to use cannabis, a natural and safe medicine.”

Fourteen states have adopted laws that allow limited access to products containing CBD, although the vast majority do not function due to defects similar to those contained in the Texas bill. Twenty-three additional states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws which help thousands of seriously ill patients around the country.

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Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. For more information, visit http://www.TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org