Offering what he said would be "healing and hope for children who are afflicted by relentless seizures caused by epilepsy," Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation Monday legalizing low-THC cannabis oils as treatment for certain medical conditions.
The Texas Compassionate Use Act from state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, will legalize oils containing CBD, a non-euphoric component of marijuana known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. The state will regulate and distribute the oils to patients whose symptoms have not responded to federally approved medication.
Senate Bill 339 requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to license at least three dispensing organizations by Sept. 1, 2017, provided that at least that many applicants have met the state’s requirements. According to the bill's author, dispensaries will function similar to compounding pharmacies. Only a neurologist or epileptologist will be able to prescribe CBD oil. The law will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2015.
Surrounded by families whose loved ones have suffered from intractable epilepsy, Abbott insisted that the new law was narrowly tailored for a specific purpose.
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"I remain convinced that Texas should not legalize marijuana, nor should Texas open the door for conventional marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes," Abbott said before the signing. "As governor, I will not allow it; SB 339 does not open the door to marijuana in Texas."
But not all medical marijuana advocates are celebrating. Many believe the new law does not go far enough, offering limited options to Texans with epilepsy — the proposal requires a CBD-THC ratio of no more than 20:1 — and nothing for those with other diseases that can be treated with medical marijuana, such as cancer.
"While this program leaves most patients behind and we’re concerned about its functionality, today is one for the history books," Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement Monday. "The Texas Legislature is sending a resounding message: Marijuana is medicine."
Texas is currently one of 13 states where marijuana is illegal for medical and recreational use. In recent years, 14 states have legalized CBD oil for certain medical conditions while 23 other states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing broader medical marijuana use.