Licensing will allow production to begin, but few patients can qualify for program and less than 1% of physicians in state can register to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Public Safety granted one of three planned licenses to a medical marijuana producer on Friday, which will allow the program created by the Texas Compassionate Use Act to get underway after more than two years of planning.
The Texas Compassionate Use Program currently only permits patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to access specific types of medical marijuana that are effective for some patients with seizure disorders. Unlike every functioning medical marijuana program, it also requires doctors to “prescribe” medical marijuana, which is a violation of federal law and could put participating doctors at risk of losing their DEA registration or even facing criminal charges.
According to data obtained from the Texas Medical Bureau, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and the American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology, only 411 doctors in the state have the necessary qualifications to register for the program. This amounts to approximately 0.54% of the licensed physicians in Texas. Far fewer may decide to register in light of the personal and professional risk involved.
“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,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “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, which would have resolved the problems contained in the current Compassionate Use Program. A majority of House members signed on as supporters, but the bill did not get a floor vote before the end of the session.
The vast majority of Texans and several major organizations support a workable medical marijuana law according to a February 2017 poll. The Texas Republican Party approved a platform last year that called on the Legislature to improve the Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of medical marijuana. TheTexas Democratic Party adopted a similar platform. In 2013, theTexas Nurses Association took a position in support of allowing patients to access medical marijuana to treat chronic pain and other medical conditions when it is deemed appropriate by a medical practitioner.
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Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. For more information, visit https://www.TexasMarijuanaPoli