Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law that is intended to make cannabis-based oils with low levels of THC legally available to people who suffer from intractable epilepsy.The problem is, no one is likely to be able to get it.
State Senator Kevin Eltife announced the plan to legalize CBD oil in January. He was careful to emphasize that patients would not be able to get high from the oil, because THC content would be limited to 5 percent. Marijuana advocates and potential patients criticized the law, saying it failed to account for the benefits of whole-plant marijuana therapy and interfered with patients' and doctors' ability to seek out the best treatment available for epilepsy or other conditions.
"I'm glad the we're talking about medical marijuana with some actual sincerity now in Texas, because this entire state is just tragically behind the rest of the country," Shaun McAlister, the president of DFW NORML said. "On the other hand, I'm really nervous about a CBD-only push because, for one thing, CBD-only legislation represents a really shallow understanding of what cannabis actually is and what it can do."
Still, Eltife's bill snaked its way successfully through the Legislature, despite the objections and language that requires doctors to "prescribe" the oil to their patients.
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Unfortunately a doctor cannot prescribe what the federal government considers a Schedule I substance without a DEA license, and CBD is a Schedule I substance. In other states, the “prescription” is referred to as a “recommendation” so that doctors can legally suggest that patients use it, says Amanda Reiman, the manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance says.
Tamar Todd, the Drug Policy Alliance's Director of Marijuana Law and Policy, compared the Texas law to a 1996 Arizona law that did not lead to a single patient getting CBD oil.
Arizona passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in 2010. Texas marijuana reform advocates are hoping for a similar evolution in the Lone Star State.
“While this program leaves most patients behind and we’re concerned about its functionality, today is one for the history books. The Texas Legislature is sending a resounding message: Marijuana is medicine. We commend our Texas lawmakers and look forward to continuing this conversation when the 85th Legislature convenes in 2017," Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.