AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas Senate voted unanimously to approve a scaled back expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program, nearly a month after the Texas House gave its approval.READ MORE: HUD Awards $4M+ To Help End Childhood Homelessness In Tarrant County
Many advocates who were hoping to see more significant changes to the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) say they’re upset by a last minute substitution to the legislation.
“I’m really disappointed in what the Senate did,” said Elizabeth Miller in an interview with CBS 11.
Miller suffers from a rare condition that causes her chronic pain.
The best treatment she’s found for that, she says, is marijuana, which she doesn’t have legal access to.
“The only options we have is opioids and other pharmaceuticals,” she said.
The Texas House passed HB 1535 last month, which would expand the qualifying conditions for TCUP to include PTSD, cancer, and chronic pain.
The Senate’s State Affairs committee, though, voted this week to substitute the bill with one excluding chronic pain from the list.
“There’s a theory people just make it up to get access to drugs, but I can’t imagine why anybody would pretend to have chronic pain and go through all that hassle,” said Miller.READ MORE: Denton High School Pep Rally Canceled Due To 'Unsubstantiated Threat' On Social Media
Senator Charles Schwertner offered no specific explanation for his changes to the bill, beyond “input from members” and discussion about how aggressive the legislature should be making changes.
Committee members did briefly discuss a concern that PTSD might be liberally applied beyond those might legitimately have the condition.
“It’s absurd to think that lawmakers would think they’re better qualified to make these types of decisions than doctors, and we have doctors that are licensed that have practiced medicine for years that have gone to school for this. And there are checks and balances in place, the Texas Medical Board, to hold doctors accountable,” said Heather Fazio representing Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.
The House bill would have also allowed medical cannabis available through TCUP to be ten times as strong as it currently, with up to 5% THC.
The Senate’s version of the bill would only raise the cape to 1% THC. Both amounts are well below THC levels generally found in recreational marijuana.
“I was hoping we’d finally have a real legitimate medical cannabis program,” said Miller.
The Senate bill also kills a provision that would have given the Texas Department of State Health Services the ability to add more qualifying conditions in the future. Patients left out of the final bill will likely have to wait another two years until the state’s next legislative session to try again.
“I will still be stuck in the black market,” said Miller, who expects she’ll be left in her current situation, buying her medication from a drug dealer.
State representative Stephanie Klick of Tarrant County, who authored the HB 1535, will now have to determine whether to ask the House to vote on the Senate’s version of the bill or to send the bills to a conference committee to try to reach a compromise.MORE NEWS: Duncanville ISD Going Door-To-Door To Encourage High School Seniors Back To Class
“We are reviewing their language now,” she wrote of the Senate’s bill Wednesday afternoon, indicating she had not yet made a decision.