AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas House lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday afternoon that could significantly expand the state’s medical marijuana program.
House Bill 1535 would increase how many people are eligible for the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) and how strong the medical marijuana they use can be. The bill comes from Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick from Tarrant County, who authored the initial legislation in 2015 to create TCUP.READ MORE: 'My Nerves Are Still Rattled': Passenger Aboard Amtrak Train Talks Crash
HB 1535 would allow Texans with cancer chronic pain, and PTSD access to the program. It would also authorize the Texas Department of State Health Services to grant use to Texans with other “debilitating conditions” in the future. Advocates say, more importantly, the bill would increase the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana from .5% to 5%, a tenfold difference.
“It originally started as an act of desperation, of looking for whatever we can do to help through this kind of awful thing,” said Mark Zartler, a Richardson father who openly discusses treating his daughter with marijuana.
Zartler is in Austin this week asking lawmakers to keep Kara in mind when voting on medical marijuana legislation.
Four years ago, he posted a video online showing him breaking the law to treat his daughter’s severe autism with marijuana to show how effective it is at stopping her self-harming tendencies.
“Right now, one drop is a felony. One drop of that oil is a felony,” he said, of the cannabis oil he continue to give her.
Kara is already eligible for TCUP, but her family says the marijuana available through the program is far too week to make a difference.
Many patients who qualify have complained the state’s current cap of .5% THC on TCUP makes their medication barely distinguishable from readily available CBD oil, which can legally have as much as .3% THC.READ MORE: Man, Pregnant Woman & Baby Killed In Crash Along Highway 360; Police Investigating
“I was able over time to work my way off all the opiods and medications by just using medical cannabis,” said Chase Bearden, deputy director for the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.
He testified before lawmakers earlier this month that allowing higher THC concentrations would mean patients could use less of the drug that’s now being diluted with other substances by manufacturers trying to comply with state law.
“It’s like if you went and got an antibiotic that they could only put a 10th of what you needed in each pill, you would have to buy 10 pills to actually have one dose,” said Bearden in his testimony to the House Public Health committee.
With written testimony allowed this year, lawmakers received 93 pages of messages asking, and sometimes begging, them to pass the legislation.
The vote Wednesday on the floor of the House moved quickly with no opposition voiced.
Texas House staffers summarizing stances on the bill only found criticism that it didn’t go far enough, arguments that the bill should allow more conditions and eliminate any cap on THC to allow doctors to set it as they think best.
The House is set to vote once more, a move considered little more than a formality, before sending the bill to the Texas Senate.
If the bill becomes law, Zartler says, for the first time in years, he’ll no longer be a criminal for trying to help his daughter.MORE NEWS: Flash Flooding: Second Body Recovered After Vehicle Swept From Texas Bridge
“It’s just a matter of getting pulled over or anything. Bad luck can happen, and I could, you know…These kind of things are really damaging,” he said.