is identical to SB 269, which was introduced by Sen. José Menendez in December.
One town in North Texas is hoping to benefit, even though getting a license won’t be easy.
By Elena Mejia Lutz, Austin Bureau | February 22, 2017
Originally published by the San Antonio Express News.
After serving in the U.S. Army for two years as a combat medic, Amanda Berard came back to San Antonio with post-traumatic stress disorder from military sexual trauma. Prescription pill bottles kept piling up, but Berard said nothing eased her anxiety or depression.
“My psychiatrists and doctors have prescribed me a cocktail of pharmaceuticals that create more symptoms that almost seem worse than the conditions they are supposed to treat,” Berard said.
Berard now works as a pediatric home health nurse and is a graduate student at the University of North Texas, where she conducts research focused on veterans with PTSD who use cannabis as a form of health care. She traveled to Colorado to interview medical cannabis users, and after using it herself for the first time, Berard was convinced it was a better answer for her illness than the extensive list of strong pharmaceuticals she had been receiving.
Wednesday, she was one of about 50 veterans who rallied at the state Capitol in support of a bill that would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to have access to medical cannabis, if recommended by a doctor. The coalition of advocacy groups requested a meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott and delivered a petition with more than 1,400 signatures backing the bill to his office after the rally.
Senate Bill 269 , authored by state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, would allow licensed medical practitioners who hold a registry identification card issued by the Department of Public Safety to recommend — not prescribe — medical use of cannabis to seriously ill patients and determine what strains of the plant and what dosage is best for each medical condition. Patients would need to have one of the debilitating medical conditions listed in the bill, a certification by a medical practitioner and a registry card issued by DPS.
In 2015, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act for card-holding physicians to prescribe cannabidiol, or CBD, with low amounts of THC only to epileptic patients in cases where federally approved antiepileptic drugs failed. Besides limiting use to only epileptic patients, advocates say that the law has a “fatal flaw” since it requires doctors to prescribe, instead of recommend, cannabis. This could result in a physician risking his or her license since the drug is still illegal under federal law, advocates say.
“I agree with (the governor) that children with epileptic seizures should benefit from cannabis oil, Menéndez said, referring to the Compassionate Use Act, which SB 269 aims to expand. “But then you have other patients like people with Parkinson’s or glaucoma or cancer, why shouldn’t they have the benefit of cannabis-based products as well?”
Menéndez’s bill would allow patients to lawfully use, possess or grow a limited amount of cannabis. Doctors and patients would be protected from arrest or penalties, and parents who use cannabis would be protected from any restrictions of possession of or access to their child. Independent laboratories would also be licensed and regulated to cultivate and dispense labeled and packaged medical cannabis.
Dr. Lang Coleman, a neuropsychologist that was deployed as a combat medic, has formed a corporation called Alamo CBD to apply for a license to grow and distribute CBD oil in Bexar County for the Compassionate Use Progam.
“We bought property in Wilson County where we will build a plant to raise cannabis indoors, process the plant and distribute the medicine in the San Antonio-Austin area,” Coleman said. “But what we also need in our law is the ability to do research and development, to expand diagnostic categories.”
Before signing the Compassionate Use Act into law in 2015, Abbott said Texas shouldn’t legalize marijuana or open the door for conventional marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. An Abbott spokesman said recently that the governor’s view “has not changed on this issue.”
Advocates hope to change the governor’s mind.
“We want to see the (Compassionate Use Act) expand and include additional qualifying conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, autism or PTSD,” said John Baucum, political director of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. “One of the problems is that there is a cap in THC content in the oil. There is the fear that these kids being treated for epilepsy will get a euphoric high feeling from the THC, but the reality is that THC is therapeutic and medicinal in itself. We really need to let science lead us, not the Legislature body.”
During her visit to Colorado, Berard went to a dispensary, described her symptoms and the attendant recommended products to target her needs.
“I went back to my Airbnb, medicated myself with cannabis, and for the first time in days felt the pain and depression ease its grip,” Berard said. “I willingly and happily ate an entire meal without getting sick. I stopped shaking, I didn’t need to keep all the curtains closed. I was actually able to enjoy being in the moment instead of being fixated on the possibility of what might happen.”
Ingrid Ebbers, an Army veteran who suffers from military sexual trauma and chronic leg pain from stress fractures in her tibia, knees and femurs, said that since 2004, she has taken multiple psychotropic drugs and pain medications, including hydrocodone, Ativan and Valium, among others.
“Each of these drugs has a list of side effects a mile long including the possibility of addiction or overdose,” Ebbers said. “I told my doctors that I have a family history of drug addiction and I don’t want to go down that path.”
Texas is among the 17 states that allow use of low THC for medical reasons in limited situations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures . A total of 28 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs.
“I no longer needed my medications and I stopped having drastic side effects (in Colorado),” Berard said. “Cannabis allowed me to move throughout my days without looking over my shoulder, without reaching for a defensive tool when walking to my car alone, without isolating myself from people. For me, the most difficult part of living with PTSD is not being able to simply enjoy the present. Cannabis gave that back to me.”
By: Casey Claiborne
POSTED:FEB 22 2017 05:47PM CST
A letter — written by veteran David Bass and signed by more than 1400 veterans from all over the state of Texas.
“The Honorable Governor Greg Abbott…I’m writing today to request an in-person meeting with you and a group of Texas veterans who advocate for a more inclusive medical marijuana program,” Bass read at Wednesday’s press conference.
Before hand-delivering the letter to Abbott’s office, the group talked with the press about what they’re fighting for.
They’re advocating for House Bill 2107 and Senate Bill 269 which would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive. Right now only those with intractable epilepsy can take advantage of it. Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress cannot.
Amanda Berard is a prime example. The former army medic says Cannabis is much safer than the prescription meds she’s on for PTSD.
“Cannabis lets me eat. I’m not jumping, I’m not afraid of sounds outside my door…I’m very paranoid on prescription medication. I shake,” Berard said.
But as a single mom with 2 kids and a job she can’t risk breaking the law.
“I can’t. So I’m only on prescription medication now. I need Senate Bill 269 because that offers me protection with employment, that offers me protection with my military benefits, that offers me protection as a parent. And it’s vital that this bill passes,” Berard said.
After the press conference, the group walked from the Vietnam Veterans Monument to the Governor’s office where Bass delivered the signatures.
Last session, Governor Abbott signed off on the Compassionate Use Act but eluded he wouldn’t go much further.
“I remain convinced Texas should not legalize marijuana nor should Texas open the door for conventional marijuana to be used for medical or medicinal purposes,” Abbott said in 2015.
“But our idea is that if anyone can persuade the Governor to expand the Compassionate Use Program, it would be our veterans,” Bass said.
Bass says he spent more than 2 decades in the army. When he retired after serving in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom he was rated 60% disabled for chronic pain and PTSD.
He became addicted to the pills they were giving him and used Cannabis as an “exit drug.”
“Now I take a small dose of Cannabis every evening at the end of my day and it takes the place for me of 1 to 3 pain meds, a muscle relaxer pill, an anti-inflammatory pill and a psychotropic pill,” Bass said.
Bass says the problem in Texas is — he’s considered a criminal because he buys and uses Cannabis. But he’s an honest citizen and a taxpayer.
“What I need is a state licensed, state-regulated dispensary where I can purchase my Cannabis that has been grown by state-licensed growers. So we’re not asking for a ‘free-for-all.’ We’re veterans. We’re asking for a strictly-regulated program,” Bass said.
Texas Compassionate Use Act goes into effect Sept. 1, 2017
By Erica Hernandez – Producer
Posted: 3:22 PM, February 21, 2017
SAN ANTONIO – As the 85th Texas Legislature looks at legislation this year to decriminalize marijuana offenses and broaden medical marijuana, a law is already in place to allow the distribution of prescribed medical marijuana starting Sept. 1.
Senate Bill 339, known as the “Compassionate Use Act,” was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 1, 2015. Even though the act opens the door for those in need of medical marijuana, advocates say the bill has many limitations.
“It’s almost as if Gov. Abbott after he signed it … immediately regretted it and said, ‘How can I sabotage this thing so nobody can do it?'” retired neuropsychologist and medical marijuana advocate Dr. Lang Coleman said.
About the law
When the bill goes into effect, the Texas Department of Public Safety will oversee the program.
The prescribed dosage would be a low-THC marijuana that has 10 percent or more cannabidiol (CBD) and not more than 0.5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives users the “high” associated with the drug. CBD is also a marijuana extract with purported medical benefits, but does not give users a “high” feeling.
All authorized patients have to be diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, be under the care of an authorized doctor, have tried two FDA-approved drugs found to be ineffective, and be a permanent resident of Texas.
At least three businesses, also known as dispensing organizations, will get approved licenses to operate a facility in the state, according to information available on the DPS website.
The dispensing organization will be allowed to cultivate, process and distribute low-THC marijuana to the qualified patients. The facilities in which they operate are required to have security measures in place, maintain records and be subject to occasional inspections by DPS.
For a complete look at the bill, click here.
By Kaitlin McCulley
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 07:32PM
Watch video here.
HOUSTON (KTRK) — A Lake Jackson woman battling a bone-eating cancer is meeting with Texas lawmakers Thursday in an effort to legalize medical marijuana for patients with a variety of debilitating conditions.
Cherie Rineker was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012. She said her husband and daughter encourage her to keep fighting.
“I want to be around for her not just on the couch, but as productive and as good as I can,” Rineker said.
Part of her fight is advocating for people like herself to be able to use marijuana legally in Texas to help ease their pain.
“Opiods are a big part of my medicine regimen, and as we all know, it’s an epidemic, it’s highly addictive, it’s dangerous,” Rineker said. “I just don’t want to be on it. I want to be a healthy, functioning mom, and opiods often make that hard.”
According to Texas law, only patients with a certain kind of epilepsy are allowed to use marijuana under a doctor’s supervision. Senate Bill 269 would expand the legal use of marijuana for other conditions — from cancer to post traumatic stress disorder.
A spokesman for the Houston Police Officers’ Union said its members are split on the issue. Some officers are concerned marijuana prescriptions would end up in the wrong hands and would lead to wider, unauthorized use.
“I honestly don’t think that with all the legal drugs we have out there that cannabis should be the one we’re concerned about,” Rineker added.
Originally published here: http://abc13.com/health/cancer-patient-hoping-to-change-marijuana-policy/1767983/
By Spectrum News Staff
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 05:12 PM EST
Originally posted here with video.
AUSTIN, Texas — War veterans who served in Korea through Iraq stood together at the state capitol Wednesday asking Gov. Greg Abbott and lawmakers to grant them access to medical marijuana.
The veterans talked about how cannabis has helped their PTSD and chronic pain.
One of them was Shorty Farmer, who said medication prescribed to him made him feel worse.
“All the stuff they had me on, you’re walking around like zombies and you can’t do anything. We don’t walk around stoned all the time, we’re just getting ready for bed or something,” said Farmer.
The veterans also delivered a letter asking for a private meeting with the governor, along with the signatures of more than 1400 veterans in favor of medical marijuana.
Texas military veterans on Wednesday are expected to deliver a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott in Austin requesting that he meet with some of them who have used medical marijuana to treat service-related conditions like PTSD, traumatic brain injury or chronic pain.
The group will hold a new conference at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Vietnam Veterans monument at the state capitol.
The same letter was sent last year to Gov. Abbott’s office but organizers said they received no word whether a meeting would happen.
This time, organizers said they will add the signatures of more than 1,400 Texas veterans in a bid to build support for legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana as a “safer alternative” to prescription drugs.
AUSTIN — About 50 veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain showed up at the state Capitol on Wednesday in support of a bill that would allow seriously ill patients to get access to medical cannabis if recommended by their doctors.
They said that the federally approved opioids prescribed by their doctors carry a list of side effects that are worse than their illnesses.
“The psychotropic drugs that doctors give us have terrible side effects, and the other issue is that there’s not just one drug that works for PTSD,” saidDavid Bass, Army veteran and director of veterans outreach for advocacy group Texas NORML. “Veterans are given a cocktail of drugs. If they take cannabis, that takes the place of all those pills. The pain medications are very addictive and many veterans have overdosed on their pain medication.”
After the rally, representatives of the coalition of advocacy groups delivered a petition with more than 1,400 signatures to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office on Wednesday, which is Texas Veterans Lobby Day. This is the latest in attempts from veterans to get the governor’s support for HB 2107 and SB 269, which would expand access to medical cannabis beyond the limited use allowed for epilepsy.
Bass said a receptionist and two Department of Public Safety troopers at the governor’s office listened to his request and “graciously” accepted the petition, which also requests a meeting with Abbott on the issue.
In 2015, Abbott signed SB 339, Compassionate Use Act, which would allow epileptic children to get access to CBD oil, a non-euphoric component of cannabis, only if patients failed to respond to federally approved drugs failed prescribed for seizures. Before signing, Abbott said that Texas shouldn’t legalize marijuana for other medical use.
Last week, a spokesman said the governor’s position “had not changed on this issue.”