Category Archives: News

Texas Compassionate Use Program – Accepting New Business Applications Starting Oct.1!

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced this week that, in anticipation of an increase in demand for low-THC cannabis, they will reopen the application process for dispensing organization licenses on October 1, 2019. Applications will be accepted through November 1, 2019.

Background

The Texas Compassionate Use Program (T.CUP) was established in 2015, providing access to low-THC (.5%) cannabis for those with intractable epilepsy. Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature expanded access to T.CUP by adding the following qualifying conditions: all seizure and epilepsy disorders, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, incurable neurodegenerative diseases, ALS, and autism. 

Despite efforts to remove the arbitrary cap on THC, lawmakers chose to continue limiting dosing options for doctors and patients. And, sadly, most patients are still being left behind without legal access to medical cannabis.

DPS is in charge of the program’s rules and regulations, which are maintained by the Public Safety Commission (five members appointed by the governor). Currently, three businesses are licensed to cultivate, manufacture, and dispense low-THC cannabis. Licensing fees for approved businesses are outrageously high —  nearly $500,000 for the first two years and more than $300,000 every two years for renewal. (There may be a chance for a change in this licensing cost. More on this soon.)

Details about the rules, regulations, and application process can be found on the DPS website. Patients wishing to participate should review this FAQ and consult their doctor.

DSHS Considers Additional Qualifying Conditions for Access to Compassionate Use Program

Proposed New Rule Relating to Designating Incurable Neurodegenerative Diseases

Austin – The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) recently held a public hearing to accept public comments on the proposed new rules to implement House Bill 3703, relating to designating incurable neurodegenerative diseases.

About a dozen people, including patients and caregivers, attended this hearing with half of them offering testimony about the proposed rule.

Background

Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature made only minor changes to the Texas Compassionate Use Program (T.CUP), expanding access from those with intractable epilepsy to those with the following conditions:

  • All seizure and epilepsy disorders
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Spasticity
  • Autism
  • ALS
  • Terminal Cancer
  • Incurable Neurodegenerative Disease

As directed by the recently passed legislation, DSHS is seeking to define “incurable neurodegenerative disease.” Their proposed definition: a condition, injury, or illness that occurs when nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system lose function over time and for which there is no known cure.

This definition would add more than 100 conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, to the list of those that qualify a patient for access to the Compassionate Use Program. Find the full proposed list here.

Many Texas families could benefit from access to the Compassionate Use Program and it’s great to see DSHS moving quickly to define what conditions will qualify as an “incurable neurodegenerative disease.” While we’d prefer that doctors be completely in charge of who has access to this medicine, the department is working within the parameters created by lawmakers.

One of the biggest problems that remains with this medical cannabis program is the legislature’s unreasonable restriction on dosing. Even if approved, the patients on this list only have access to low-THC (0.5%) cannabis, a product that is marginally more effective than the hemp products that can be purchased over the counter (0.3% THC).

This point is especially important considering the therapeutic nature of THC. In 2016, “Salk Institute scientists have found preliminary evidence that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in marijuana can promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.” More info here.

Until the legislature removes their arbitrary cap on THC, the relevance of the Compassionate Use Program remains in question. 

For updates and action alerts about Texas marijuana policy, please sign up for email notifications.

Recap: Texas Marijuana Policy Conference was a success!

It was a pleasure to host the second annual Texas Marijuana Policy Conference and I’m so grateful for everyone who made it a great event. BIG THANKS to the hundreds who attended, our generous sponsors, dedicated volunteers, and valued partner organizations. Teamwork is key to making legislative progress and we’ve got a great team!

Our two headlining speakers were Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg and State Senator José Menéndez. Both elected officials are assets to our movement toward reform and offered powerful speeches at the conference last weekend. 

Harris County DA Kim Ogg

From the Statesman, August 31 – DA Ogg: “‘When I proposed to Houstonians that I thought it was more important to spend that money testing 8,000 rape kits that have been left on the shelves of Harris County for almost a decade, the public agreed,’ Ogg said to loud applause in a crowded ballroom at the downtown Sheraton Hotel. ‘It’s what our people wanted us to do.’

“Most recently, Harris County has said it will reject all new marijuana cases without testing, which is now required to distinguish illegal marijuana from legal hemp and comes at a high cost. Most other large Texas counties, including Travis County, have followed suit.”

And Sen. Menéndez said during his passionate speech:

 “I filed the legislation because i think it’s simple: government needs to stop picking winners and losers for choosing medicine when there are alternatives that are effective ways to treat patients and their families.

“It should be doctors and patients deciding medication. It should be the doctors practicing medicine, not the legislature.”

Texas Veterans for Medical Marijuana were interviewed by Spectrum News:

More photos and videos from the event will be uploaded to our Facebook page as soon as they’re ready later this week. (Follow our page for social media updates.)

Our journey toward the 2021 legislative session has begun and there is a lot of work to do!

As we look toward the future, please consider ways you can join or step up your involvement in our efforts to change laws. One of the best ways to help is by becoming a sustaining member with a monthly contribution. Reliable grassroots support every month goes a long way in helping us build and maintain momentum! Become a sustaining member today.

Over the next several months, we’ll be working to empower advocates and rally support for reform by:  

  • offering updates on the regulatory progress for hemp and medical cannabis,
  • hosting regional advocacy training events,
  • recruiting policy experts, medical professionals, and subject matter specialists,
  • publishing a primary and general election voter guide,
  • supporting political convention delegates,
  • engaging media statewide,
  • and preparing for the third annual Texas Marijuana Policy Conference!

Thank you for your support and dedication to our shared cause.

Onward!

(Photography courtesy Kelsi Leigh.)

CLE Approved! Texas Marijuana Policy Conference | Friday, August 30

We are proud to partner with Texas A&M School of Law to offer continuing legal education (CLE) credit for several sessions at the upcoming Texas Marijuana Policy Conference in Austin!

The Labor Day weekend event features dozens of breakout sessions, nearly 100 policy and industry experts, and several exceptional keynote speakers, including Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. Event details and registration can be found here.

The following sessions are open to all conference attendees, but attorneys are especially encouraged to attend to earn up to 4 CLE credit hours on Friday, August 30:

11:15am Sessions
The Texas Compassionate Use Program: What is Covered, Who Qualifies, and What’s Changed? (CLE Accredited)

  • John Pitts Jr. (Texas Star Alliance)
  • Chase Bearden (Coalition of Texans with Disabilities)
  • Lisa Pittman (Partner, Thomas Pittman P.C.)

Federal Marijuana Prohibition: The Current Landscape and A Review of Proposed Legislation. (CLE Accredited)

  • Professor Franklin Snyder (Texas A&M School of Law)
  • Michael Correia (National Cannabis Industry Association)
  • Justin Strekal (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)
  • Margot Witvliet, Ph.D. (Lamar University)

2pm Session – Marijuana Prohibition from a Law Enforcement Perspective (CLE Accredited)

  • Pete Stout, Ph.D (Houston Forensics Science Center)
  • Shannon Edmonds (Texas District and County Attorneys Association)
  • Professor Julie Stone (Adjunct professor at Texas State and former prosecutor with Texas Attorney General’s office)

3:15pm Session – Hemp in Texas: Issues in Implementation (CLE Accredited)

  • Courtney Barnes (Associate Attorney, Vicente Sederberg LLP)
  • Chelsie Spencer (Partner, Ritter Spencer PLLC)
  • Richard Y. Cheng (Partner, DLA Piper, LLP)

4:30pm Session – Legal and Scientific Issues in Increasing Medical Cannabis Research (CLE Accredited)

  • Sue Sisley, MD (Lead Investigator, Scottsdale Research Institute)
  • Shane Pennington (Attorney, Yetter Coleman LLP)
  • Matthew Zorn (Attorney, Yetter Coleman LLP)

The laws surrounding medical marijuana and hemp cultivation in Texas, and the rest of the United States, have been changing rapidly. With an expanded Texas Compassionate Use Act for certain medical uses of cannabis and the legalization of hemp cultivation in the state, the legal landscape is in flux. The legal landscape, in turn, is embedded into broader questions of federal administrative regulations, medical research and forensic science issues, and public policies regarding public health, public safety, agriculture, and commerce. This program will bring together legal academics, lawyers, medical researchers, forensic scientists, public policy experts, and legislative lobbyists to bring lawyers up to date on the changing patchwork of legalization in Texas.

The five accredited sessions are a joint product of the Texas A&M University School of Law and Texans for Responsible Marijuana, a Texas nonprofit association. While there are five hour-long sessions, two are running concurrently, so a maximum of four hours of CLE credit can be earned. More detail about each session here.

Register now:

 

Interested in the Texas cannabis industry? Join us over Labor Day weekend!

The primary focus of this year’s Texas Marijuana Policy Conference is to share information and rally action to advance more sensible and compassionate laws in our state. This year, in addition to discussing policy and advocacy, we will offer several sessions to provide industry information to consumers, entrepreneurs, and investors.
Texas Marijuana Policy Conference
Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2019
Sheraton Austin at the Capitol
701 E 11th St, Austin, Texas 78701
 
Register now to secure your tickets, including opportunities to bundle and save on your conference registration and hotel room reservation!

Here is just some of the content you can expect at this conference over Labor Day weekend
:
  • Investing in Cannabis with Matt Nordgren (Arcadian Fund)
  • Cannabis Jobs: Working in the Industry with Trey Tijerina (Texas Cannabis Business Alliance)
  • Patients: Resources and what you need to know in Texas with
    Christina Burke (Compassionate Cultivation)
  • Entrepreneurs: Building your brand, your team, and your network with Robert Head (Blue Cord Farms), Seth Nyer (Bee Delightful), Elizabeth Hogan (Willie’s Remedy), and Trey Tijerina (Moderator)
  • Processing Cannabis in Texas (Technology and Best Practices) with
    Jennifer Blossom (Xabis Processing Laboratory, Compassionate Cultivation)
  • Product Accountability: Labs, Testing, and Labeling with
    Tori Strong, Ph.D (Vyripharm Biopharmaceuticals, Texas Medical Center)
  • Cannabis Consumer Education: Identifying Quality Products with
    Mary Olivar (Greenbelt Capital), Chelsey Lewis (PrimaHemp), Amanda Crawford (My Jane), Jae Graham (MaryJae)
  • Finances: Taxes, Accounting, and Banking with Summer Wilkinson, CPA (Leaf Book CFO Services LLC) and Rachel Kennerly, CPA (The Grow CFO)

See our full event schedule here and register to attend. (Please consider an additional donation to help cover the cost for a patient or caregiver who would like to attend, but may not otherwise be able to afford to do so.)

Discounted hotel room rates expire on Thursday, so don’t wait to make your reservations!

Announcing: Second Annual Texas Marijuana Policy Conference!

We’re  excited to announce that we’ll be hosting our second annual Texas Marijuana Policy Conference in Austin over Labor Day weekend!

Early bird ticket pricing available now.

Our three-day conference will offer presentations from policy and industry leaders to help attendees better understand and navigate the new legal climate in Texas and federally. We will also be focused on opportunities and our path forward to ensure more meaningful policy changes when the legislature meets again in 2021.

In addition to policy and advocacy discussions surrounding decriminalization, medical cannabis, and hemp, we’ll feature a track of cannabis business sessions geared toward entrepreneurs, market watchdogs, and investors. We’ll also offer accredited continuing legal and medical education for attorneys and medical professionals.

Register now for early bird pricing and please share the event with your friends and colleagues who are interested in this exciting movement! (Rates go up on August 1st.)

Sponsorship opportunities available. Email executivedirector@informedtexas.org.

All attendees have access to a discounted rate for hotel rooms at the Sheraton (conference location). Reserve your room now to lock in the discount.

Thank you for your continued support of reform in Texas. I hope to see you in August!

The 86th Texas Legislature has Adjourned – Session Recap!

With a record number of marijuana-related bills introduced for consideration, lawmakers had plenty of opportunity to change the state’s harsh and unreasonable laws. Our opponents worked to prevent any kind of reform from advancing, using fear tactics and shady procedural tricks. But this issue is too important for us to be intimidated!

Tens of thousands of Texans contacted their elected officials and hundreds joined us at the Capitol to educate lawmakers, offer testimony, and rally support for meaningful marijuana law reform. We gave it our all and had a significant impact, passing both of our priority policies out to the House and successfully improving the one medical cannabis bill that did pass into law.

Here’s the final status report on the most relevant legislation:

HB 1325 – Legalize Industrial Hemp – PASSED! (Details below.)

HB 3703 – Expand the Compassionate Use Program (Limited) – PASSED! (Details below.)
(Email our legislators about their vote on this bill.)

HB 63 – Penalty Reduction for Possession: Passed overwhelmingly in the House, but single-handedly stalled by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. (Email our legislators about their vote on this bill.)

HB 1365 – Expand and Fix the Compassionate Use Program, Establish Review Board: Passed overwhelmingly in the House, but never received a hearing in the Senate.

The legalization of industrial hemp is HUGE for Texas, especially for our farmers who were being cut out of the hemp industry, and it’s good that more people can access the Compassionate Use Program, even if it’s only low-THC cannabis. However, these bills do little to help most Texas patients who desperately need relief and, because of the legislature’s failure, another 120K+ Texans will be arrested for marijuana possession between now and the next legislative session in 2021.

We have a lot more work to do and will remain relentless in our pursuit of meaningful reform!

We have 19 months until bills can be pre-filed for the 2021 legislative session. Let’s make them count by continuing to educate elected officials and participating in the primary and general elections. Let’s hold them accountable.

Stay tuned for opportunities to take action locally. Thank you for your continued support and dedication to our shared cause!

—————————————————–

More info about the two cannabis bills that passed into law:

HEMP
HB 1325 (industrial hemp) passed with unanimous votes in both the Texas House and Senate! This bill legalizes in-state cultivation of hemp and regulates retail hemp products. The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) will have 60 days to establish and send rules and regulations to the the US government for approval. As stated by a TDA representative during the Senate hearing, it is expected that cultivation licenses will be granted by the end of 2019 and crops can be planted in early 2020. (For hemp business questions or advice, contact a consulting firm.)


MEDICAL CANNABIS

HB 3703 was passed with bipartisan support and provides a limited expansion of the Compassionate Use Program. (Policy Overview.​)

Good News: Thanks to the bill sponsor, Sen. Donna Campbell, HB 3703 was amended to include terminal cancer, incurable neurodegenerative diseases (ex: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, etc.), autism, ALS, all epilepsy disorders, multiple sclerosis, and spasticity.

Two other favorable amendments were also included: patients no longer need approval from two specialists in order to participate and the bill now includes an attempt to protect doctors by defining a “prescription” for low-THC cannabis as an entry into the Compassionate Use Registry.

Bad News: Unfavorable amendments include the stripping of patient protection for students and the removal of all references to in-state cannabis research. It’s also disappointing that this bill maintains the current (and arbitrary) cap on THC at .5% and continues to neglect consumer protection concerns about the lack of independent, third-party testing.

This bill does not do enough, leaving behind the vast majority of patients who could benefit from access to medical cannabis. We still have work to do! (Email our legislators about their vote on this bill.)

Texas Senate votes to expand the Compassionate Use Program

The Texas Senate has approved HB 3703, an extremely limited medical cannabis bill. It’s a bitter sweet moment for those of us who have worked so hard to truly fix and expand the Texas Compassionate Use Program.

As passed by the House, HB 3703 only listed three additional qualifying conditions: epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and spasticity. Thanks to advocates like you from across the state and leadership from Senator Donna Campbell, amendments were made in the Senate to include the following addition qualifying conditions: all seizure disorders, terminal cancer, autism, ALS, and incurable neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.

Another favorable amendments include a change to require approval from only one specialist in order for patients to participate in the program. Sen. Campbell’s version of the bill also attempts to protect doctors by defining a “prescription” for medical use of low-THC cannabis as an entry in the compassionate-use registry. (Bill overview.)

Next steps: Sen. Campbell’s good amendments need to be approved in the House and then the bill heads to Gov. Abbott’s desk for a signature.

This bill moves the needle, but falls very short of what we need in Texas! Those with other debilitating medical conditions need access to whole plant cannabis and we will not stop until the Compassionate Use Program is truly made more inclusive and functional, protecting patients and providers.

Onward!

Texas: Medical cannabis must be approved in the Senate by Wednesday. Take action now!

The 2019 legislative session comes to a close in one week and one medical cannabis bill is still alive and moving!

On Friday, a senate committee quickly voted to approve HB 3703, a proposal to make low-THC cannabis available to those with all seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, incurable neurodegenerative disease, autism, ALS and spasticity. However, conditions such as PTSD, colitis, severe pain and more were not included on the list of qualifying conditions. (Bill overview as amended in committee.)

The next few days are critical. We have one last opportunity to improve the bill by supporting amendments during the Senate floor debate. It is imperative that your state senator hears from you now!

Medical cannabis must be voted on in the Senate by close of business on Wednesday, May 22nd.

Originally, this bill only included three conditions, but after hearing from thousands of Texans, lawmakers expanded that list. Our engagement is working!

  1. Email your senator in support of more inclusive access to medical cannabis.
  2. Call your state senator’s office. Here’s an example of what to say when you call:

“Hello, my name is __________. I’m calling as a constituent and in support of HB 3703, the medical cannabis bill sponsored by Dr. Campbell. This bill expands the Compassionate Use Program, which I fully support. In addition to the qualifying conditions listed, I’d also like my senator to support the inclusion of patients with PTSD, severe pain, and other debilitating medical conditions. Our state also needs to start doing research on cannabis. Please ask my senator to support HB 3703 and amendments to make it more inclusive. Thank you.”

​Please share this information with every Texan you know who supports reform.

Thank you for taking action during this final push! So many patients simply cannot wait another two years.

Onward!

Big Week in Austin: Hemp was legalized and medical cannabis advances!

We started with a record-setting 60 cannabis related bills. With a little more than a week left in the legislative session, industrial hemp has been legalized and, after a great hearing, a House-approved medical cannabis bill has passed with unanimous support out of the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee. Here’s a comprehensive report:

INDUSTRIAL HEMP

On May 15, HB 1325 (industrial hemp) passed with an unanimous vote in the Texas Senate! The next step is reconciliation between the House and Senate, then the bill goes to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for a signature.

This bill legalizes in-state cultivation of hemp and regulates retail hemp products. Upon final approval, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) will have 60 days to establish and send rule and regulations to the the US government for approval. As stated by a TDA representative recently, it is expected that cultivation licenses will be granted by the end of 2019 and crops can be planted in early 2020. (For hemp business questions or advice, please contact a consulting firm.)

MEDICAL CANNABIS

On Friday, members of the HHS Committee heard powerful public testimony in support of HB 3703, Rep. Klick’s bill to expand access to the Compassionate Use Program. The committee took swift action, passing the bill with unanimous support just hours after the hearing! (Policy Overview.)

Good News: Thanks to the bill sponsor, Sen. Donna Campbell, HB 3703 was amended to include terminal cancer, incurable neurodegenerative diseases (ex: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, etc.), autism, ALS, all epilepsy disorders, multiple sclerosis, and spasticity. Two other favorable amendments were included: patients no longer need approval from two specialists in order to participate and the bill now includes an attempt to protect doctors by defining a “prescription” for low-THC cannabis as an entry into the Compassionate Use Registry.

These changes are consistent with our recommendations and we are grateful to see them adopted. Great work, everyone!

Bad News: Unfavorable amendments include the stripping of patient protection for students and the removal of all references to in-state cannabis research. It’s also disappointing that this bill maintains the current (and arbitrary) cap on THC at .5% and continues to neglect consumer protection concerns about the lack of independent, third-party testing.

This bill does not do enough, leaving behind the vast majority of patients who could benefit from access to medical cannabis. We still have work to do! 

For now, let’s focus on trying to amend this bill on the Senate floor when it’s debated and voted on.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your senator now and ask them to support amendments make the program more inclusive.

Thank you for your continued efforts as we fight for legal patient access to cannabis!