This was not the year for robust cannabis reform in Texas.
At the start of the session, dozens of cannabis-related bills were filed. Some aimed to reduce penalties for those caught in possession of cannabis, while others would have fully legalized and regulated sales for adults. One bill in particular looked promising: HB 1535, a bill that aimed to expand the state’s program by allowing for additional qualifying conditions and for products that contain up to 5% THC.
After months of discussion and debate, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed that bill into law on Tuesday, but not before it was “watered-down,” to quote Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.
Once lawmakers were done with HB 1535, the 5% THC was reduced to 1%, and the list of new qualifying conditions, including chronic pain, was reduced to cancer and PTSD.
“We’re glad to see the legislature expand the Compassionate Use Program, but it’s terribly disappointing to see Texas inching forward while 37 other states have taken meaningful action to provide patients with safe and legal access to medical cannabis,” Fazio told Cannabis Wire. “Texans are eager to move forward with meaningful marijuana law reform. This year’s minimal expansion of the Compassionate Use Program is good, but represents the least our state government could do to help patients.”
Today, medical cannabis products in Texas cannot contain more than .5% THC, which is only slightly more than the national legal THC limit for hemp, which is defined as cannabis with .3% THC or less. And, for the entire state, only three entities are licensed to provide medical cannabis products, which must be in non-smokable forms, like oils and tinctures.
For years following the legalization of medical cannabis in 2015, advocates pushed to expand the program, called the Compassionate Use Program, but with little success until now.