AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House Committee on Public Health is holding a hearing Tuesday on a bipartisan proposal to fix the state’s currently unworkable medical marijuana program and make the unnecessarily restrictive law more inclusive.
HB 2107 would increase the number of medical conditions that qualify for the Texas Compassionate Use Program and allow patients to participate if they receive an official recommendation from their doctors. It would also improve the variety of medical marijuana available to patients. The program currently only permits patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to access specific types of medical marijuana that have been found to be ineffective for some patients. It also requires doctors to “prescribe” medical marijuana, which is not possible under federal law.
The Texas Republican Party approved a platform last year that called on the Legislature to improve the Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of medical marijuana. The Texas Democratic Party has adopted a similar platform. In 2013, the Texas Nurses Association took a position in support of allowing patients to access medical marijuana to treat chronic pain and other medical conditions in which it is deemed appropriate by a medical practitioner.
Prior to the hearing, Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy held a media availability with Texas medical professionals, caregivers, and patients (including several veterans) who are testifying in support of HB 2107. They were joined by medical refugees who have relocated from Texas to other states to access medical marijuana.
Statement from Natasha Harper-Madison, an Austin-based cancer survivor:
“To criminalize this important medicine, which is recognized by so much of the medical community as critical to the lives of so many patients, is cruel and short-sighted. I hope lawmakers will show compassion for these suffering people. I was once a very proud Texan. These days, I feel abandoned, overlooked, disregarded, and neglected.”
Statement from Dr. Robert Marks, an Austin-based anesthesiology and pain management doctor:
“Thousands of lives can be saved by allowing people to try cannabis as an alternative to opioids. This bill isn’t asking legislators to approve of recreational cannabis use. It’s asking them to allow specific patients to be able to use it as a medication. Their decision on this bill will directly impact the lives and suffering of many, many people in our state.”
Statement from Christy Zartler, a Richardson-based pediatric nurse practitioner whose daughter, Kara, has used medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of autism and cerebral palsy:
“As a mom and a nurse practitioner, it makes me extremely angry to know that there is an effective medication out there for patients like my daughter, but it is not allowed here in Texas. It is absolutely inhumane for lawmakers to keep this medication from patients. Medical cannabis could greatly improve the quality of life for my daughter and many other patients in Texas. Adopting an effective medical cannabis law is sensible, it’s compassionate, and it’s long overdue.”
Statement from Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project:
“This is potentially life-saving legislation, and all we ask is that the committee review the facts, listen to the testimony, and hold a vote. There is no reason to let this year’s session end without voting on this bill. These patients and all Texans deserve to know where their elected representatives stand on this issue.”
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Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. For more information, visit https://www.TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org.