Medical Marijuana Sort of Gets Its Day at the Texas Capitol. Not Really.

A week after a sizable group of veterans descended on the state capitol to demand access to medical marijuana for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions, the Texas House's Public Safety Committee on Tuesday finally held a hearing on a cannabis-based treatment bill. Don't expect the veterans or activists pushing for medical marijuana in Texas to take much satisfaction from what happened.

The bill the committee chose to take up was Representative Stephanie Klick's HB 892, which would legalize an exceedingly small subset of cannabidiol oils for use by an exceedingly small subset of patients who might benefit from medical marijuana treatment. Klick's bill would only allow oils with 5 percent or lower THC content and would only allow them to be used by people with one condition, intractable epilepsy.

HB 892 is, almost literally, the very least that could be done to reform medical marijuana policy in Texas. Many advocates, including Shaun McAlister, the executive director of the DFW Chapter of NORML, and Dean Bortell, the father of Alexis Bortell, a 9-year-old with intractable epilepsy, don't support Klick's bill. McAlister said it ignores the complex treatments whole-plant legalization would make possible. Bortell believes that dosing decisions should be left to doctors.

Still, the hearing was something. A small indication that maybe the state might move away from full prohibition at some point in the distant future.

"It's not a product you can get high on," Klick assured the committee. "It has no street value."

She also pointed out that the drug her bill would make available is ingested orally rather than smoked, because that matters for some reason.

Multiple parents testified Tuesday, explaining the difficulties their children suffered and, in some cases, how their kids' conditions had improved when they'd sought cannabis treatment in other states.

Members of law enforcement, or at least those members of law enforcement that showed up to testify, were mostly opposed to the bill. One sheriff said that the attitude of his men would be "here comes the dopers." Which seems reasonable when you're talking about people with intractable epilepsy taking something from which it's impossible to get high.

The bill, as you might expect, was left pending.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young