Despite bipartisan support, legalize medical marijuana bill likely won’t reach House floor

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Despite bipartisan support, medical marijuana bill likely won't reach House floor
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Amid several pressing legislative deadlines, some lawmakers are concerned that a bill to expand the medicinal use of marijuana won’t ever get its day on the House floor.

House Bill 2107 would expand the “Compassionate Use Act” — a measure that was signed into law in 2015 — and allow the use of medical marijuana for qualifying patients with debilitating medical conditions such as terminal cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But despite bipartisan support in the lower chamber — the bill has 77 representatives signed on as either authors, co-authors or joint authors — it’s unlikely the measure will ever reach the House floor.

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said the bill “has the potential to provide vital treatment for children with severe medical conditions” but it hasn’t been referred to the Calendars Committee — where Howard is vice chair — after being approved by the Public Health Committee. “This makes it very difficult to meet Thursday’s deadline,” Howard said.

Tuesday is the deadline for bills to get set on the House calendar and Thursday is the last day for the House to do second readings of bills.

In order for the bill to get a floor debate, it would likely have to be set for Tuesday or Wednesday’s calendar, said state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, one of its authors.

“We’ve known this whole time with the late hearing and the late vote out of committee that this would be an uphill battle. But we’re still pushing on,” Isaac said.

Under HB 2107, a specialist focused on neurological disorders could administer low dose THC and high-CBD — an oil derivative of marijuana — under the patient’s tongue. Patients would only be allowed to use the treatment if two other medications have failed.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who had previously said that Texas lawmakers won’t approve legislation that would legalize marijuana, signed the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized oils containing CBD, a non-euphoric component of marijuana, for treatment of intractable epilepsy — which can’t be controlled through medicine or surgery.

HB 2107’s authors say it would help keep Texans from going to Colorado — where recreational marijuana is legal — to seek treatment.

“This isn’t something that’s cooked up in a lab. It’s made like olive oil and its administered under the tongue,” Isaac said. “It just seems absurd that we can’t give patients the freedom to use this because there’s so many stigmas around the word ‘marijuana.’”

Texans for Responsible for Marijuana Policy held a press conference Monday morning advocating for the House bill.

“We’ve known for quite some time that a majority of Texans support legal access to medical cannabis,” Heather Fazio, Texas political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “We now know that most House members support it, too. With more than half of them signed on as co-authors, this bill is sure to pass if the Calendars Committee allows a vote on it.”

Voters in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas approved medicinal marijuana initiatives in November. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 17 states allow use of low THC, high-CBD products for medical reasons in limited situations or as a legal defense.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The filings come less than a week after several other states approved measures weakening marijuana laws. And according to the bills filed Monday, Texas lawmakers are looking to do the same thing.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/05/08/despite-bipartisan-support-medical-marijuana-bill-likely-wont-reach-ho/.

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