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If you are a Texan, you know how hard Texas medical marijuana laws can make it to treat your qualifying condition or symptom. In Texas, the medical cannabis program is very limited, allowing only a handful of conditions to use cannabis, restricting home cultivation, and imposing a THC cap.
Whether you live in Texas or are a medical marijuana patient and plan on visiting The Lone Star State, understanding the medical cannabis program’s limitations can help you find therapeutic relief with legal products and help you stay on the right side of the law.
1. Limited List of Qualifying Conditions
In June 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1535 into law expanding the state's medical cannabis program. The bill allows patients with any type of cancer (not just terminal cancer) and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to obtain a doctor's recommendation to use low-THC cannabis products.
Under the state’s Compassionate Use Program, medical cannabis use is limited to Texas patients with:
- Seizure disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- All types of cancer
- An incurable neurodegenerative disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Texas has one of the most restrictive lists of qualifying conditions. Its medical cannabis program excludes patients with any other medical condition or symptom. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, arthritis, and many more do not qualify under the current program.
2. 1% THC Cap
House Bill 1535 also recently raised the cap on THC concentrations in medicinal products from 0.5% to 1%. According to advocates, doctors, and medical patients, the 1% limit is still not sufficient enough to treat those with serious conditions such as cancer and PTSD.
In some cases, medical patients will have to buy and consume extraordinarily high amounts of low-THC products to find relief. Texas's THC cap of 1% limits a patient's ability to manage chronic pain and reduce the use of opioids, which can be addicting and even fatal in some cases.
By using medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids, patients significantly reduce their risk of dependency and eliminate the risk of death due to overdose. Texas lawmakers still buy into the stigma around THC, which continues to hurt patients.
3. Harsh Penalties for Possession and Cultivation
While some cities and counties within the state have moved to decriminalize cannabis possession, cannabis penalties in Texas are still relatively harsh compared to other states. Getting caught possessing, cultivating, or selling cannabis in Texas can lead to criminal charges. The severity of the charge depends on the amount in possession.
Possession of up to 2 oz of cannabis is a Class B misdemeanor and punishable with up to six months of jail time. Possession of up to 4 oz of flower can be punishable with a Class A misdemeanor carrying up to 12 months of jail time. Possession of larger amounts of flower or any concentrate is a felony charge. Cultivation of any flower amount is a felony.
4. No Smokable Hemp Production
Up until recently, smokable hemp was banned in Texas. In August 2020, a group of hemp companies sued the state after it banned smokable hemp. A Texas court temporarily reversed the ban until the next court hearing, allowing the sale and distribution of smokable hemp products but not their production.
Smokable cannabis provides patients with nearly instantaneous therapeutic effects compared to other delivery methods such as edibles and topicals. While patients can buy these products now, the ban on production limits the availability of smokable hemp in the state.
5. No Home Cultivation
Under current Texas medical marijuana laws, home cultivation of cannabis is not allowed. Since insurance companies do not cover cannabis, patients are limited to products available via brick-and-mortar or online retailers.
Medical patients with serious conditions may not be able to work as much and have high medical expenses, making cannabis medicine prohibitively expensive.
Legalizing the cultivation of cannabis at home would significantly increase patient access. In addition, home cultivation can cut down the market share of illegal dealers. If cannabis patients can grow at home, they do not need to buy cannabis from illicit dealers as much or at all.
6. Limited Dispensaries
In July 2021, the Compassionate Use Registry reported a total of 7,454 registered patients. The Department of Public Safety has licensed only three dispensing organizations so far. With such low accessibility, many patients are forced to drive far distances or order from dubious retailers online.
Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, the department can “issue at least three licenses but no more than the number of licenses necessary to ensure reasonable statewide access to, and availability for patients prescribed low-THC cannabis.”
7. No Reciprocity for Out-of-State Patients
Under Texas medical marijuana laws, if you are a medical cannabis patient and want to obtain low-THC cannabis in Texas, you must be a Texas resident and obtain a doctor's recommendation to legally use cannabis. Out-of-state medical patients with a medical card from their states cannot buy cannabis in any of Texas’s licensed dispensing organizations.
Final Thoughts on Texas Medical Marijuana Laws
The limited medical cannabis program in Texas provides some patients with access but still excludes a majority of Texans who can benefit from this medicine. Until lawmakers decide to expand Texas medical marijuana laws, medical patients will continue to seek cannabis elsewhere. State regulation could keep patients safe and help them find relief.