All posts by Gianna Filipetto

After ‘Unheard-Of’ Momentum, Medical Marijuana Bill Declared Dead by Authors

Originally posted by  on here

After gaining the support of most House members last week, a bill legalizing medical marijuana was declared dead Tuesday night by its authors — a Republican and a Democrat who vowed to continue working on the issue.

“The clock ran out,” Representative Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, told the Observer Tuesday evening. Representative Eddie Lucio III, a Brownsville Democrat who authored House Bill 2107, and Isaac, the bill’s first co-author, said they were able to build “unheard-of” momentum for the bill — more than half of the Texas House signed on to the legislation — but weren’t able beat legislative deadlines.

In a late-night Facebook Live video, the pair said they would work in the interim to educate people on the importance of medical cannabis and pledged to be better prepared to pass the legislation next session.

House Bill 2107 would allow patients with certain debilitating illnesses to use medical marijuana at the recommendation of their doctor. The bill would expand the Compassionate Use Act passed in the Texas Legislature in 2015, which allows certain doctors to prescribe cannabis with very low levels of THC — the chemical that creates the high — to patients with severe epilepsy under specific conditions. Supporters of HB 2107 say current law is too limited, and has no benefit for individuals who suffer from cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism and other ailments.

Families hold up photos of their kids who suffer from debilitating ailments, who they say could be helped by legalizing medical marijuana.  SOPHIE NOVACK

The legislation was bottled up in the House Public Health Committee for most of the session by Representative Four Price, the Republican chair of the committee. Last week, committee members heard four hours of emotional testimony on the measure from patients who said cannabis was the only treatment that helped ease their suffering while pharmaceuticals caused new problems. About 70 people testified; only one was against the bill.

In the two days after the hearing, the number of co-authors on the bill grew from six to 76, with 29 Republicans signing on. The bipartisan support is unusual for a measure dealing in any way with marijuana — a word that supporters say scares off many conservative lawmakers who worry that their constituents will believe they favor legalizing recreational pot and hold it against them in the Republican primary.

Price called an impromptu committee vote late Friday afternoon as pressure from activists and lawmakers built. The bill passed the committee 7-2, with Price and fellow Republican Stephanie Klick, of Fort Worth, opposing.

But the legislation never made it to the House calendar. As contentious bills drew hours of debate on the House floor and priority measures for Republican leadership took a front seat, HB 2107 was too far behind to make a May 11 legislative deadline, the authors said.

Despite HB 2107’s demise, Isaac said he will look for ways to add the legislation as amendments to other bills still up for debate this session. On Monday, Isaac added an amendment to House Bill 7, a high-priority child welfare proposal that would protect parents who give medical cannabis to their child.

Isaac named the legislation “Kara’s amendment,” after Kara Zartler, a 17-year-old who suffers from cerebral palsy and severe autism. Her father, Mark, released a videoshowing the effect of cannabis on Kara’s tendency to self-harm that has gotten over 1 million views. He testified in favor of the bill last week, saying cannabis is the only thing that has helped his daughter.

 

Lawmakers fail to schedule medical marijuana bill

By Erica Hernandez on May 10, 2017 for KSAT 12 here

 

SAN ANTONIO – A long fight for advocates to pass a medical marijuana bill has ended.

HB 2107 died on Tuesday after no action was taken on the bill by the House Calendars Committee.

Last week the bill had gotten a lot of support when over 70 representatives signed on as co-authors of the bill to expand the current Texas Compassionate Use Act.

While expanding medical marijuana use in Texas has ended, there is still a chance for decriminalization of marijuana to happen.

HB 81 will head to the House on Thursday.

This bill would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a $250 civil fine and there would be no arrest.

Time has run out for marijuana-related bills

Originally posted by Ashley Paredez on May 10 2017 for Fox 7 Austin here

This legislative session, Texas discussed marijuana-reform more than ever. But, two bills that garnered a lot of support aren’t likely to pass in time.

Time has run out for House Bill 2107, the medical marijuana bill. By tomorrow that could also be the case for House Bill 81, marijuana decriminalization.

As the clock winds down for this legislative session, so do the passage of bills. Regardless, we did see big steps toward marijuana reform.

“We saw medical marijuana voted out of committee. We saw decriminalization placed on a House calendar. These things inside the building are major milestones and we’re going to get there,” says Rep. Joe Moody, (D) El Paso.

House Bill 81 was introduced by Representative Joe Moody of El Paso. It would remove the current criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil citation and a fine. Monday was the last day House bills could be heard and voted out of committee. HB 81 made it out and was placed on a House calendar. Thursday is another key deadline, the last day representatives can vote to pass a House bill. It’s not likely they will get to the decriminalization bill in time.

“This is an enormous waste of our resources: our law enforcement resources, our court resources, our jail resources… for low-level offenders, they’re mostly young people. They’re mostly non-violent, not getting in trouble for other things. So why are we doing this to 60,000 Texans every single year?” says Rep. Moody.

There are still a few weeks left in the session. Representative Moody says there are ways to amend other bills and look for different ways to promote the policy. His office is considering all opportunities.

On to the medical marijuana bill, co-authored by Representative Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs. It would have expanded the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized oils containing CBD for treatment of intractable epilepsy. They wanted that to also include those who have autism or other severe neurological disorders. As of Tuesday, that bill is essentially dead.

“Waiting until next session is heartbreaking. It’s absolutely crushing, especially because I received a message just a couple of days ago when we still had hope that 2107 was still alive. It was from a family that was pushing for us and praying for us because their daughter had a seizure, fallen and hit her head and died. They felt like if she had options available she would still be here today,” says Representative Jason Isaac, (R) Dripping Springs.

Representative Isaac says he will continue to educate across the state of Texas so this is one of the first bills passed next session. He was successful in getting an amendment put on House Bill 7, which deals with Child Protective Services. It would mean CPS can’t separate families where parents may be going beyond the Compassionate Use Program.

 

 

Local Family Fights for HB 2107 – Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Posted by  | May 9, 2017 here

Currently, HB 2107 is making its way through the legislature. House Bill 2107 refers to the authorization of possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions and the licensing of dispensing organizations and testing facilities.

One local family is sharing their story on how this bill would change their lives, and recently shared at the Texas State Capitol to those who can make it possible. Read their story below.


Dusty and Meagan Cheney were both raised in Paris, TX and now live with their children in Colorado.

The Cheney’s were living in Texas in May of 2015 when their daughter Austen was born, a normal and healthy little girl.  At five an a half months Austen started seizing, and after one seizure turned to four within a two day period it became obvious that something was seriously wrong.

Over the next several months Austen kept on having seizures, but neither she nor her family would give up. After two medication changes, two neurologists, 2 MRI’s, 2 EEG’s, a CT, and lots of blood work Austen was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome.  She was 11 days from turning one year old.

Dravet Syndrome is a catastrophic form of epilepsy caused by a mutation in Austen’s SCN1A gene. There is no cure, and a child’s seizures typically get worse as new seizure types develop. The odds are 1:20,000, so low that no one in her small hometown of Paris, TX had ever even heard of the disease. Austen’s parents were told that with mainstream meds Austen would almost definitely continue to get worse, and her cognitive function would also start to decline. Within a year she might be having up to 100 small seizures a day.

They knew there must be answers.

Three weeks after Austen’s diagnosis was received her family packed up and moved 750 miles away from their family, their friends, and their entire support system to gain access to medical cannabis for Austen. It was a risk like none they ever thought they would face, and they knew it wasn’t a cure. Nothing can give Austen a shiny new SCN1A gene, but they had to be able to say they had tried everything to give their daughter the best chance of a life worth living possible.

CBD alone didn’t help Austen. With CBD Austen was having large seizures anywhere from once a month to once a week, and she was having smaller ‘eye flutter’ seizures anywhere from 50-100 times a day. Texas’ Compassionate Us Program would not have helped Austen. Phenobarbital didn’t help Austen, Keppra didn’t help Austen. Diazepam and Klonopin helped to stop seizures as they were happening, but nothing helped to lower the number of seizures Austen was having.

Nothing except THC.

Since starting THC Austen’s seizures are decreasing, and while the disease is still progressing it is not progressing at the rate the doctors originally thought it would. Last fall she even went 48 days without a seizure, a huge feat when you think of how many she was having a day beforehand. Although a growth spurt brought her seizures back to every 4 days in February, an adjustment of her cannabis has them back to once a month on average now. And she hasn’t had an eye flutter since August.

Before THC Austen’s seizures lasted on average of 11 minutes and could go up to 35 minutes or more. Now her average is 2 minutes, and her THC rescue nasal spray stops the seizures better than her previous rescue drugs without incapacitating her for an entire day.

“THC can’t cure Austen, but it has given her a shot at a normal life. Right now she is cognitively normal, something we were told would not happen at this age.”

“This month Austen turns 2, and thanks to THC we look forward to many more years to come.”

What people may not realize is that Austen does not smoke cannabis. While many people believe this is how it is taken, it actually comes in oil form and she takes them just like she takes Keppra and her nasal spray is a mist.  While many patients do smoke their cannabis, just as many (especially pediatric patients) use oils, salves, and edibles to help with their conditions.

Meagan recently shared their story at the Texas State Capitol to urge movement regarding HB 2107. To hear her story, see the video below.

Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Forward After More than Half of the Texas House Signs on

Originally Posted by Sophie Novack for Texas Observer on May 5, 2017 here

A bill to allow severely ill or disabled patients to use medical cannabis has growing, bipartisan support. But time is running out for passage.

UPDATE: After a big bipartisan push on and off the House floor Friday, Public Health Committee Chair Four Price, R-Amarillo, called an impromptu meeting to vote on HB 2107 just before 5 p.m. The bill passed 7-2, with Price and Representative Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, opposing. The measure now advances to the calendars committee, where Chair Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, can schedule the bill for debate on the House floor. The House has until May 11 to consider the legislation.

ORIGINAL POST: On Thursday, Representative Jason Isaac got a text from one his constituents that moved him to tears.

“Catherine had 32 seizures yesterday,” wrote Terri Carriker of her 15-year-old daughter, who has severe epilepsy. “She took an extra 1500 mgs of one med and 20 of Valium on top of her regular meds.” Carriker included a photo of Catherine curled up on a couch, asleep. “This is the effect of that today.”

Texts from Terri Carriker to Rep. Isaac yesterday.  COURTESY REP. ISAAC

 

Terri says Catherine tried medical marijuana and it reduced the number of seizures she suffers from an average of  8 to 10 a day to none or two. It also has none of the debilitating side-effects of the powerful drugs she takes to control her epilepsy. But pot, of course, is illegal in Texas — something that Carriker and Isaac want to change.

“I’m crying again,” the Dripping Springs Republican texted back.

This week, Carriker came to the Texas Capitol to testify in favor of House Bill 2107, co-authored by Isaac, which would allow the use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients with severe medical conditions, at the recommendation of their doctor. Families, patients and advocates flooded the House Public Health Committee hearing Tuesday night to support the bill, sharing personal stories of how cannabis helped ease suffering from cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, autism and cerebral palsy when pharmaceuticals failed. Of about 70 people who testified, one was against the bill.

“Between the drugs and the seizures, we basically lost the daughter we had,” Carriker said at the hearing.

The number of sponsors jumped from six to 76 in the two days after the hearing, including 29 Republicans. Eight of the 11 committee members signed on to the bill, authored by Representative Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, which gives supporters the majority needed to pass the bill out of committee — if Chair Four Price, R-Amarillo, brings it to a vote.

But Price said he’s undecided, and the clock is ticking before the May 8 deadline to pass House bills out of committee. If he doesn’t call a vote Friday or Saturday, HB 2107 will not survive this session, said Lucio, who pleaded with Price on the House floor Thursday.

The bill’s momentum so far is itself considered a notable achievement by supporters, who acknowledge that the word “marijuana” scares off many conservative lawmakers who worry their constituents — particularly GOP primary voters — will think they support legalizing the drug for recreational use.

This argument was made by Dr. Richard Hurley of the Texas Pain Society, the sole person to testify against HB 2107. There is insufficient evidence that cannabis treats severe pain, the drug is addictive and the bill would bring Texas “four sessions away from recreational use,” he said.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and 17 states, including Texas, allow limited use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

HB 2107 would expand Texas’ 2015 Compassionate Use Act, which lets some doctors prescribe cannabis with extremely low amounts of THC — the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that creates the high — to patients with intractable epilepsy who have found at least two FDA-approved drugs to be ineffective.

Advocates say the current law is too limited, and, for the majority of patients, it has no impact at all.

At the Tuesday House hearing, survivors of war, military sexual assault and domestic violence emotionally discussed how cannabis is the only thing that has helped with their PTSD. Several parents said they became “medical refugees,” moving from Texas to Colorado for legal medical cannabis for their kids, and asked the lawmakers to let them come home.

Dr. Roberts Marks, a pain management doctor in Austin, said Lucio’s bill would address the opioid crisis, citing a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower rate of overdose deaths. 

Veteran David Bass, in the hat, gets a hug from fellow veteran Keith Crook, who also suffers from PTSD.  SOPHIE NOVACK

Veteran David Bass, who is 60 percent disabled from chronic pain from his time in the U.S. Army, said he uses cannabis because it’s safer than opioids, but in Texas that makes him a criminal. “I purchase cannabis illegally and use it illegally. But I don’t live my life illegally,” he said.

“Maybe we need to change the law,” Representative Bill Zedler, a far-right Republican from Arlington, who is a co-author, said at the hearing.

Isaac was convinced to support this kind of legislation when he met Carriker in the Capitol last session. At Isaac’s request, Carriker met and convinced his wife as well, who Isaac said used to be vehemently opposed because of the word “marijuana.”

“I just wish people who are opposed to providing more access to medicine for their children could go live with one of these families for 24 hours, because it would change their minds and hearts,” he said in an interview with the Observer.

“I will continue to fight for this even if I lose elections,” Isaac said, “because it’s the right thing to do.”

The companion bill by Senator Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio, has not been scheduled for a hearing by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown.

Rep. Lucio tells witness Natasha Harper-Madison, who suffers from Lupus, that he was diagnosed with the illness a couple years ago.  SOPHIE NOVACK 

On Thursday, Price called the issue an “unfamiliar area” and said he had “concerns with the scope of the bill.” If it were to move forward, it would need to be tightly regulated, he said in an interview. Lucio said he is open to tweaks and concessions.

“I’m not going to stop shooting until the clock runs out,” Lucio told the Observer. If the House bill doesn’t pass in the next few days, “I’m committed all interim to do anything and everything I can to arm myself to make an all out push to get something passed next session.”

Sophie is the public health reporting fellow at the Observer. She previously covered health care policy and politics at National Journal in Washington, D.C. You can contact her at novack@texasobserver.org.

Three companies approved to be THC Cannabis dispensaries for patients with rare epilepsy

Originally Posted By RaeAnn Christensen on MAY 04 2017 for Fox 7 Austin here

Marijuana for medical use will soon be grown in Austin. The “Department of Public Safety” has approved three companies: to grow, process and dispense low THC Cannabis to prescribed patients.

It’s part of the Texas Compassionate Use Program passed by legislature two years ago.

Debbie Tolany is one of many parents come September that will be giving the new CBD oil to her son, “My son has severe autism, and epilepsy, and what would be labeled Crohn’s Disease if he was an adult, he has a multitude of things that would benefit from medical cannabis.”

She said having tried many different treatments two years has been a long time coming. “We’ve tried horrendous drugs, we’ve tried diets, we’ve tried supplements, we have tried behavioral interventions whatever it is, we’ve all tried everything and this is a healthier resort for us,” she said.

DPS approved three companies out of 43 applicants to open dispensaries for patients who have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy to get the low-THC Cannabis.

The department had a panel, evaluate, and score the applications and the top three; Cansortium Texas, Compassionate Cultivation and Surterra Texas were chosen.

While Tolany said she will try the new CBD oil in a few months, she isn’t hopeful. “Absolutely we will pursue it, that said, I don’t believe that for my son that the levels that they are giving us the .05 percent up from .03 are going to make any difference with his seizures.”

Tolany along with many others have their hopes set on House Bill 2107 which is in the 2017 legislative session and would legalize medical marijuana altogether. After a public testimony went into the early morning hours Wednesday the bill went from 6 authors to more than 70.

“I am really hopeful that our state having my child’s health in its hands will shift in our favor.” If not this year she said Texas is home and she will continue to advocate for her son and herself, “The people need it as medicine for their children, we would be criminals, we don’t want to do that, we want to do it properly, we want it to be regulated and we want our doctors to be able to choose how much our children get.” So far there has been no word on if or when a vote will happen for that medical marijuana bill.

Feds Admit Marijuana’s Potential To Reduce Opioid Problems

Originally Posted By Tom Angell | May 01, 2017 – Here

A growing body of recent scientific research indicates that legal marijuana access leads to reduced opioid issues, and now the federal government can’t help but admit it.

In a new update to a webpage on cannabis’s medical uses, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that “medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.”

Reporting the results of studies that the agency funded, the revised NIDA page says that one “found an association between medical marijuana legalization and a reduction in overdose deaths from opioid pain relievers, an effect that strengthened in each year following the implementation of legislation.”

A second federally-funded study “showed that legally protected access to medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with lower levels of opioid prescribing, lower self-report of nonmedical prescription opioid use, lower treatment admissions for prescription opioid use disorders and reduction in prescription opioid overdose deaths.”

Further, the latter study demonstrated that “the reduction in deaths was present only in states with dispensaries (not just medical marijuana laws) and was greater in states with active dispensaries.”

In other words, the federal government knows that the easier it is for people to access legal marijuana, the less likely they will rely on potentially deadly opiate-based drugs.

Other recent research suggests that “medical cannabis treatment may reduce the dose of opioids required for pain relief,” the new update to the NIDA page says, including one study which examined the Medicare program and found that “availability of medical marijuana significantly reduced prescribing of medications used for conditions that medical marijuana can treat, including opioids for pain.”

NIDA is funding a number of additional ongoing scientific investigations on the topic, the webpage says.

The new passage on opioids isn’t seen on the most recently cached version of the NIDA page on the Wayback Machine archived on April 18, suggesting it was added within the past two weeks.

Also last month, a separate study found that spending on prescription drugs through Medicaid is significantly lower in states with medical cannabis laws than in states without medical marijuana.

“If all states had had a medical marijuana law…[annual] total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion,” the researchers wrote.

The new NIDA website update is the latest development to suggest that the agency may be warming to the idea that legalization isn’t an outright public health disaster and may actually have some benefits.

Last week, when a study found that illegal marijuana use and marijuana use disorders increased significantly more in states with medical cannabis laws than in other states, NIDA Director Nora Volkow and other agency officials went out of their way to admit in a companion editorial that “research to date has not documented an increase in cannabis use by adolescents in the United States overall or in those states that enacted new marijuana laws.”

And in March, NIDA edited another marijuana page on its site to read as slightly more open to the idea that cannabis has medical benefits.

Despite the mounting evidence about marijuana’s potential to reduce opioid issues and NIDA’s admission of the same, other federal officials like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue to dismiss the notion that cannabis could be a safer alternative to prescription drugs.

“‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break,” he said in February. “This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

Now, thanks to NIDA, the Trump administration has the science on marijuana and opioids compiled in one place.

Lawmakers hear medical marijuana bill

Originally Posted By Bridget Spencer on MAY 02 2017  for Fox 7 Austin here

*UPDATE* Public testimony ended at around 1:30 a.m. on May 3 in the debate over medical marijuana in Texas.


Cherie Rineker remembers the day when she was diagnosed.

“I was told I had three tumors pressing on my spine and was almost paralyzed and that I had cancer,” said Rineker.

But she couldn’t get access to medical marijuana in Texas. So she went to Colorado for two months.

“During that time my neuropathy which was severe went away within a couple of days. The hydrocodone and morphine I was on I never reached for while I was in Colorado. I slept better,” said Rineker.

Others say the same…that medical marijuana has helped their family. Like the Zartlers who say cannabis calms their severely autistic daughter.

“She’s currently on five prescription medications. But we haven’t found any modern medicines that can rescue her from a fit,” said Mark Zartler.

Right now in Texas, those with a severe form of epilepsy only can get a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana. If passed, HB 2107 would expand that list to include diseases like cancer, and autism.

“The legalization of marijuana is extremely unsafe for the citizens of Texas,” said Dr. Harold Urschel, Chief Medical Strategist of Enterhealth

Doctor Urschel from Dallas says no need to legalize it because of negative long term effects on the brain, but there is an alternative.

“In marijuana there’s a medication called THC. That chemical is already approved by the FDA in a pill form called Marinol. It works just great for pain, anorexia, seizures, it’s really effective but it doesn’t get you high,” said Urschel.

“The issue with it, when you look at Marinol, is it’s strictly one cannabinoid, it doesn’t contain the entourage effect,” said Dr. Robert Marks, anesthesiologist.

Doctors like Robert Marks say no drug is perfect, but marijuana has far more benefits than risks.

“The studies from the Journal of the American Medical Association show a 24.8 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths in the states that have legalized medicinal cannabis,” said Marks.

As for Rineker, she says her fight to live is for her young daughter, and that’s what she says she will do, regardless of the politics.

“I had to make a decision… if want to fight this fight or bail out. I took one look at her and I just knew I have to be here for her,” said Rineker.

Texas patients sharpen plea for medical marijuana legalization

Originally posted by Bob Sechler for American-Statesman on May 02, 2017 here


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include more information from Tuesday night’s hearing.

Advocates for legalizing marijuana in Texas for medical purposes delivered a simple plea to state lawmakers Tuesday night: Don’t let misconceptions continue to block a life-improving treatment for people with serious health problems.

They drove home their request with wrenching personal tales of debilitating conditions untreatable with conventional drugs because of ineffectiveness or intolerable side effects.

Medicinal marijuana “will allow me to get off some really strong drugs — some of which harm me as much as my ailment does,” said Cherie Rineker, a 49-year-old mother from Lake Jackson who was diagnosed with a type of incurable blood cancer in 2012. “There’s no moral high ground in denying medical patients medicinal marijuana when allowable prescriptions rob us of our health.”

Rineker made her comments during a lengthy hearing that stretched from Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning on House Bill 2107, which would make marijuana for medical purposes broadly legal in Texas. The hearing, conducted by the House Committee on Public Health, had its start delayed while the full House remained in session.

Rineker, one of several dozen people who turned out to support HB 2107, said she tried medical marijuana in Colorado — where it is legal — and was able to cut back drastically on her prescription drugs, including high-powered pain medication and anti-depressants. She said her appetite also was restored, an important development for patients undergoing nausea-inducing chemotherapy.

“I actually had a desire to eat,” she said. “While in Colorado, I never once reached for my opiods.”

Other supporters who testified included members of the group Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, as well as veterans and a number of health professionals who contend marijuana can be a useful treatment for many ailments, with fewer side effects than conventional medications.

Two years ago, Texas lawmakers approved what’s known as the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing oils made from cannabidiol for medical purposes. Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, is found in marijuana plants but doesn’t produce euphoria or a high.

However, that law has yet to have any impact because the first Texas CBD dispensaries haven’t been fully licensed yet. It also restricts the compound’s use to certain patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy, and only after they’ve first tried two conventional drugs that prove to be ineffective. Many advocates for medical marijuana have said the Compassionate Use Act is so restrictive it’s useless for many people.

HB 2107 would legalize medical use of all parts of the marijuana plant — including tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which induces a high for users — for any doctor-corroborated debilitating health condition, such as cancer, chronic pain, autism or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I could eliminate so many (prescription) drugs and be pain free and sleep and not have so much anxiety — if I had access to this in Texas,” said Mary Kate Bennett, 60, prior to the start of the hearing. She said she suffers incapacitating pain from nerve damage suffered during knee operations more than a decade ago.

Just getting a hearing on HB 2107 constitutes a small victory for medical marijuana advocates. Last week, they rallied in front of the Capitol to pressure lawmakers into holding a hearing on HB 2107 and a companion bill in the Senate, SB 269, both of which have spent weeks languishing in committees with no action.

Garnering a hearing is an initial step if a bill is to gain traction and have a chance of advancing in the Legislature.

“We can’t really tolerate indecision from our legislators anymore,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national nonprofit group focused on reforming marijuana laws. “All of these people here who can benefit from this don’t have time to wait.”

State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, chairs the House Public Health Committee and called the hearing on HB 2107 in the wake of last week’s rally. State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, has yet to call a hearing on SB 269, which is in his committee.

Separately, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced this week that it has “conditionally approved” three companies — Cansortium Texas, Compassionate Cultivation and Surterra Texas — as the first CBD dispensaries in the state under the Compassionate Use Act, out of 43 applicants. The agency now has until Sept. 1 to conduct on-site inspections of their facilities and “determine whether these three applicants will be issued dispensing organization licenses,” it said.

Advocates push for hearings on stalled medical marijuana bills

Originally Posted by By Bob Sechler at  American-Statesman on April 25, 2017 here

Dr. Robert S. Marks says he routinely faces a dilemma when cancer patients and others dealing with chronic pain broach the topic of marijuana as a treatment option.

“You’re in a very tough position between what the law tells you to do, and what your (medical) oath tells you to do,” said Marks, who operates two pain management clinics in Austin.

“The truth of the matter is, you have a huge disconnect right now between what’s legal and what can actually help people” with fewer adverse side-effects than prescription opiates, he said.

Marks was among about two dozen advocates for so-called medical marijuana, including health-care professionals and patients, who gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday. They said they are hoping to jump-start momentum for two bills — Senate Bill 269 and House Bill 2107 — that would make the use of marijuana legal as a treatment for any doctor-corroborated debilitating health condition, such as cancer, chronic pain, autism or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The companion bills, filed more than two months ago, have languished in committees without being granted hearings as the clock ticks down on the current session of the state Legislature. SB 269 is in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, while HB 2107 is in the House Public Health Committee, chaired by state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo.

“Chairman Price, Chairman Schwertner, please schedule a hearing,” Keith Crook, a New Braunfels resident and military veteran, said during the event Tuesday. “Please take this first positive step to save lives.”

Crook and other participants said they have tried to contact Price and Schwertner but haven’t received responses. Neither Price nor Schwertner responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

Two years ago, Texas lawmakers approved what’s known as the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing oils made from cannabidiol for medical purposes. Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, is found in marijuana plants but doesn’t produce euphoria or a high.

However, that law, which has yet to have any impact because the first Texas CBD dispensaries won’t be licensed until this summer, restricts the compound’s use only to certain patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy, and only after they’ve first tried two conventional drugs that prove to be ineffective.

Advocates for medical marijuana said Tuesday that the Compassionate Use Act is so restrictive it’s useless for most people. They also said increased availability of medical marijuana is essential for Texans suffering from chronic pain and other debilitating health conditions, illustrating the point with their own wrenching personal stories and those of family members and friends.

Medical marijuana “is a life saver,” said Crook, who volunteers to help fellow veterans. “It is stopping people from putting guns in their mouths and pulling the triggers.”

As things stand, Marks said, he’s forced to deal with the issue the way he contends many doctors in Texas also do so — with the equivalent of a wink and a nod. He and other participants Tuesday said citizens shouldn’t have to risk prosecution and jail simply because they’re trying to bring some relief to themselves or their loved ones.

“I tell (patients), if you tell me you went to Colorado (where medical marijuana is legal), I’m not going to ask to see your plane ticket,” Marks said.

While HB 2107 and SB 269 have not moved out of committee, a related bill — House Bill 2200, sponsored by state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin — was granted a hearing that took place late Monday night in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The bill wouldn’t legalize medical marijuana, but it would allow people to cite a doctor’s recommendation as “an affirmative defense” against prosecution, and it would prevent police from investigating doctors who advise patients that “the potential benefits of the use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks” in certain circumstances.

“We are not giving anyone permission to use marijuana under this bill for medical purposes,” Hinojosa said during the committee hearing. “We are only saying we don’t believe criminal penalties are appropriate if one can prove that they possess marijuana for legitimate medical purposes.”

HB 2200 provides “individuals an opportunity to explain to a judge their situation, and gives the judge the ability to accept or reject their affirmative defense,” she said.

Participants in Tuesday’s event were supportive of the bill, which was left pending in the committee, although they said legalization of medical marijuana would lift the threat of prosecution entirely.