Friday, August 12, 2016

After DEA Punts on Pot, Sen. Menéndez Says He'll Push For Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Law in Texas

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 9:49 AM

click to enlarge Sen. José Menéndez will take a second swing at medical marijuana reform next year. - PROGRESS TEXAS
  • Progress Texas
  • Sen. José Menéndez will take a second swing at medical marijuana reform next year.
The Drug Enforcement Agency on Thursday announced it was still way behind the times after refusing to reschedule marijuana out of its strictest drug control category, despite the growing consensus among experts that it doesn't belong there

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and a nurse from New Mexico named Bryan Krumm had petitioned the DEA to remove cannabis from its list of Schedule 1 drugs, which includes addictive drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. The DEA said the decision was based on science, saying it is not a safe and effective medicine.

State Senator José Menéndez, author of Texas' first medical marijuana law that regulates the use of CBD oil to treat intractable epilepsy, disagrees. "For years, I've heard veterans share horror stories of psychotropic drugs being over prescribed to treat PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury). They want to treat their trauma with safe medical cannabis," Menéndez says in a statement Thursday. "I don't know how the DEA can look a cancer patient in the eye and say you don't deserve cannabis to ease the chemotherapy and reduce your nausea."

Menéndez plans to try and expand medical marijuana to more patients in 2017 when the Texas Legislature gets back to work. This time around, Texas already has a medical-marijuana framework to build off of, albeit a weak one. There's Texas' CBD oil bill, which only allows the use of CBD oil with low concentrations of THC for people with intractable epilepsy. Critics of the bill say it should be expanded to include patients with other conditions and that the low concentrations of THC that are allowed in the CBD oil should be increased. 

Then there's also Senate Bill 339, which Menéndez tried to get approved in 2015. This would have brought comprehensive medical marijuana regulations to the state. It would have allowed the Department of State Health Services to establish a system to license and regulate growers, processors and dispensaries. The proposal also would have let people with cancer, seizures, PTSD and other debilitating conditions use medical marijuana as long as their doctor recommended it, but it never even made its way to a committee hearing.

While seemingly innocuous, the word "recommendation" is incredibly important when writing these bills. One of the key problems with the CBD oil law is it requires doctors to prescribe, not recommend. It's against federal law for doctors to prescribe anything with THC in it. They could lose their ability to practice and be charged with a crime. However, in states with established medical marijuana systems, doctors recommend it instead of prescribing it because a doctor's recommendation is protected by the First Amendment. 

However, medical reform advocates are likely to face numerous obstacles, including Gov. Greg Abbott. After he signed the Compassionate Use Act in 2015, he made it clear to the media that he would never support comprehensive medical marijuana, decriminalization and certainly not legalization. In May, he told Texas Public Radio his position hadn't changed. Abbott could veto any reform legislation that makes it to his desk.

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