Texas Approves Limited Medical Marijuana Bill, But Pot Advocates Still Unhappy

By McCarton Ackerman 05/20/15

Despite the progress, medical marijuana still has a long way to go in the Lone Star State.

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The most notoriously red state in the country could soon be going green, with Texas’ Republican-controlled house approving a limited medical marijuana bill on Monday.

All SB 339 needs is a signature from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to become reality. The new legislature will legalize trace amounts of cannabis oil for those with intractable seizure conditions. The oil doesn’t produce the high associated with other parts of marijuana. Although it’s a minor victory on paper, marijuana advocates are still celebrating it as the most significant step forward in the state’s history.

“More than 20,000 people engaged in a serious conversation this year, and we are pleased to see strong support from a bipartisan majority," said Progress Texas executive deputy Ed Espinosa.

However, some marijuana advocates are not as enthused. SB 339 requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana to patients, an act which is still prohibited by federal law. This means that even patients who qualify for medical marijuana will still find it difficult to obtain. Even for those who can access it, the approved extracts contain very little THC and some seizure patients believe a greater amount is necessary to be medically helpful. Patients with PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are forbidden from accessing the drug.

“On a certain level, the legislature should be commended for acknowledging the medical value of marijuana, and it is a historic vote in that sense,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “[But] 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.”

Earlier this month, a committee in the Texas House rejected three bills that aimed to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in the state. House Bill 507—which would make having an ounce or less of marijuana a mere citation offense and remove any possibilities for jail time, arrest, or a criminal record—could still be re-examined before the end of the legislative session.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.