Medical marijuana became legalized in 2015 in Texas with The Compassionate Use Act, which allows the use of low THC cannabis, for patients with epilepsy. Plagued with problems, the first significant issue of Texas’s Compassionate Use Act is that it requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana as opposed to recommend it. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, it is illegal for a doctor to prescribe it. They can, however, recommend it and this is protected under the first amendment. The problematic language in the Act makes it nonfunctional as it is. Now a new problem emerges for the Texas marijuana industry as the Public Safety Commission in Texas is now changing the rules to make it virtually impossible for businesses to participate in the program.
Blocking Access to the Texas Marijuana Industry
Initially the Department of Public Safety required that businesses pay $6,000 for the marijuana license that would permit a business to deal in the low THC cannabis oil that has been legalized in the state. Now they’ve decided to reduce the number of businesses that they will allow to operate to just 3 for the whole state and are demanding that $1.3 million be paid for each business license. This raise in fee and reduction in licenses that will be distributed has disqualified many businesses from entering the Texas marijuana industry. Ultimately the cost of the increase will have to be paid by patients meaning the cost of the low THC cannabis oil will be extremely expensive. This will automatically exclude many paying patients from being able to access the oil.
Policies Leading to Self-Incrimination
Heather Fazio of the Marijuana Policy Project told CBS News that “the costs are much higher than they expected because they’ve created this unreasonably restrictive market and that there are only a few patients that would have access to that medicine.” Another concern is that they have made it so that seeds or the specific low THC plants allowed would have to be imported from other states, which is a federal crime. Fazio says “Some of the other provisions requires self-incrimination with regards to where cannabis seeds are coming from.”
Marijuana Reform in Texas
The Compassionate Use Program is unlikely to function in any way as it stands. It is basically impossible and illegal to abide by the many restrictions set in its language. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is working with the coalition called Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy to reform Texas marijuana laws. They’re currently focusing on fixing the language in the bill so that it becomes legal for doctors to recommend it. They are also working on allowing more patients with a larger array of debilitating conditions to have access to marijuana recommendations under Texas marijuana law. On top of this, MPP are working to lift the cap of THC that is allowable, since it has many benefits for many suffering with different conditions.
MPP are also looking into passing another law to decriminalize marijuana possession and make it a civil offense that incurs a fine. According to a June 2015 poll conducted by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, less than 20 percent of the state are in favor of prohibition. 68 percent support the work being done by MPP to decriminalize marijuana possession for personal use. Businesses and other opponents will have until November 28th to protest and have their voices heard regarding the decisions put forth by the Public Safety Commission. The Commission will vote at that time on whether to pass the new regulations into law.