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The Texas Department of Safety recently approved the first of three medical cannabis production licenses allowed under the state Compassionate Use program, passed 2 years ago. But the program is so restrictive, few patients will qualify, and few doctors will likely participate due to occupational risks.

The Compassionate Use program allows medical cannabis only for patients with severe epilepsy. This rules out a vast number of potential patients with other medical conditions. Further, the program requires that doctors actually write prescriptions for patients, which is not required in other states. This exposes them to the risk of prosecution under Federal Law, where cannabis is still illegal. There are only 411 doctors in the state (less than 1%) who qualify to prescribe cannabis in the first place. Many of these may decline, given the risk.

According to Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, “The few patients that could be helped by this program are now one step closer to finding relief. However, the extremely limited scope and flawed language may doom the program unless it is revised. Lawmakers need to stop stalling and approve comprehensive improvements when they are back in session in 2019. Seriously ill Texans have waited long enough.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Eddie Lucio III introduced HB 2107, a bill designed to fix the flaws in the existing program. But the bill did not reach the floor for a vote before the session ended.

According to a 2017 poll, the majority of Texans support a medical marihuana program. Both political parties have adopted platforms that call for improving the program.

Source: The Marihuana Policy Project press release, Sept 1, 2017.