Could we get an expansion of medical marijuana?

Maybe, but I have my usual doubts for the usual reasons.

Rep. Stephanie Klick

Texans who suffer from chronic pain and potentially other debilitating conditions would be able to access the state’s medical marijuana program under a bill advanced by the Texas House on Tuesday.

The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by House Public Health chair Stephanie Klick, is an expansion on the state’s 2015 “Compassionate Use” law — which has, in a number of legislative changes since it was created, allowed a growing number of patients in Texas to legally use cannabis to treat debilitating symptoms of conditions such as epilepsy, autism, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

House Bill 1805 passed the chamber Tuesday on a preliminary vote of 121-23 and is expected to get final approval on Wednesday before heading to a Senate committee.

The bill would allow doctors to prescribe 10 milligram doses of cannabis for chronic pain cases that might normally call for an opioid pain management prescription. Some conditions that could cause such pain would include Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

The bill also authorizes the Texas Department of State Health Services to further expand the list of conditions that it could be used for in the future, without needing to change state law anymore.

Klick’s bill also changes the way the legal level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the active psychoactive agent in cannabis — is measured, from a concentration to a set volume of 10 milligrams per dose, which supporters say allows it to be delivered more efficiently and in a wider variety of ways. The THC found in cannabis has been found by some patients and doctors to be effective against pain, depression, anxiety, appetite problems and nausea.

There was no debate on the House floor, nor any vocal opposition in a committee hearing on the bill last month.

As research has expanded in the area of low-THC medical marijuana, currently delivered to patients in mostly tincture oils and gummies, Texas lawmakers have been in favor of expanding access to the program, Klick said.

“My intent then and still is to have a truly medical program that follows the scientific data,” said Klick, R-Fort Worth, who sponsored the legislation creating the original program.

The Compassionate Use Program in Texas has registered some 45,000 patients since it first began, with about 10,000 to 12,000 active participants, said Nico Richardson, the interim chief executive officer of Austin-based Texas Original, the state’s largest medical cannabis provider. By comparison, a similar but much more inclusive program in Florida has about 485,000 people currently enrolled in the program, Richardson said.

As noted before, I’m not following the Lege very closely this session, because it’s all a shitshow and I just don’t want to. But even in this cursed session there are a few good bills that will get real support, and so we may as well take note of it. Kudos to Rep. Klick, who as noted authored the original Compassionate Use bill, for getting this one this far.

The key question, as always, is what does Dan Patrick think. The story doesn’t say, and my default assumption in these matters is that he’s opposed to any increase in the allowable use of marijuana until proven otherwise. If he doesn’t support it, then this is as good as it gets. Even if he does support it, he could threaten to tank it if the House doesn’t play ball on his favorite things, like vouchers. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe this will be on a glide path to Greg Abbott’s desk. I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, it’s Dan Patrick’s Senate and that’s how it will be until we are finally able to vote his ass out.

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