In 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law SB 339 known as the Texas Compassionate Use Act. The bill authorizes DPS to implement a dispensary program to include a registry of physicians who are authorized to prescribe low levels of THC cannabis, and their patients who are receiving the medication. The online Compassionate Use Registry is expected to begin development in July 2016. DPS will also provide licenses to dispensaries for regulated cultivation, operation, and dispensation of cannabis. Acceptance of licensing applications begin in June 2017, and at least three dispensaries can receive a license by September 2017. There is no limit to the number of distributors who can receive a license.
The program is strictly limited to qualified patients, regardless of age, diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. This means that a patient must be a permanent resident of Texas, and have tried at least two FDA-approved medications in the past that have not alleviated seizures. The law also requires that two physicians determine that the medical use of prescribed, low-THC cannabis will benefit the patient. Low-THC is defined as marijuana that contains 10% or more cannabidiol (CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis) and no more than .5% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis). The availability of cannabis will be in the form of oils so smoking cannabis will remain illegal under state and federal law. Neither DPS nor another State agency will regulate the cost of cannabis which means prices will be based on a market-based system. For more FAQs, see DPS’s website.
Although this is a historical step for Texas, implementation of the program could delay if medical doctors shy away from prescribing medical marijuana or are slow to implement guidelines in their practice. More Texans will need access to medical marijuana if the legislature wants to help other citizens who want to use cannabis for health reasons. Research has shown that cannabidiol can alleviate the ailments of those suffering from arthritis, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.