Gov. Abbott’s signs limited medical cannabis expansion bill into law
Last update: June 17, 2021
Texas’ 2021 legislative session adjourned on Monday, May 31. Although several cannabis reform bills were introduced this year, only one very modest reform — HB 1535 — was approved by the legislature. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the bill into law. The new law will go into effect on September 1, 2021.
The bill will expand the state’s low-THC medical cannabis program to include people with cancer and PTSD. It will also modestly increase the current 0.5% THC cap on medical cannabis to 1%.
While HB 1535 is a modest improvement, there is still a great deal of work to be done to establish an effective medical cannabis program for patients across the Lone Star State.
Texas is currently one of only 14 states with no effective medical cannabis law, and one of only 19 that still impose jail time for simple possession of cannabis. Make sure your lawmakers know this issue matters to voters; ask them to support cannabis policy reform in the next legislative session!
Texas launches low-THC medical marijuana program, but few can participate
In early 2018, the first sales of low-THC medical cannabis began in Texas, pursuant to the Compassionate Use Program. While the program is surely helping some patients, it is flawed, extremely limited, and leaves most patients behind.
Initially, only patients who suffered from serious seizure conditions could participate, leaving behind a huge number of Texans who suffer from other conditions, including chronic pain, and many who will otherwise have to rely on opioid-based medicine. While the law was improved somewhat in 2019, when additional qualifying conditions were added, major flaws remain.
The law unnecessarily puts physicians at risk: State law requires physicians to write prescriptions for marijuana products, yet prescriptions for cannabis are clearly illegal under federal law, placing doctors at potential risk.
As noted, it is also limited to very low-THC cannabis.
Finally, the state approved only three companies to operate medical cannabis businesses in the entire state. Each serves as cultivator, processor, and dispensary for those patients in Texas who qualify.