Texans with post-traumatic stress disorder and any form of cancer will soon be eligible to receive medical marijuana.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed an expansion of the state’s restrictive medical marijuana program into law, also opening access to individuals participating in research initiatives. The measure, House Bill 1535, takes effect Sept. 1.
“This new law is an important step forward for veterans, cancer patients and many other Texans,” said Nick Etten, a former Navy SEAL and founder of the Veterans Cannabis Project, who noted that many Texas veterans cope with PTSD. “Moving forward, we will continue to work with lawmakers in future legislative sessions to build on this law, develop a broader approach towards medical cannabis, and make sure it is a truly effective medical tool for the veterans who gave so much for our country.”
The law is a victory for Texas’ medical marijuana advocates, though many were disappointed that the bill was stripped of its biggest changes during the legislative process. HB 1535 originated in the Texas House, where lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a version of the measure that would have also expanded eligibility to patients with any condition that causes acute or chronic pain, and that would have given the state health department the ability to approve other conditions.
The lower chamber’s version also would have increased the legal limit for THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, from .5 percent to 5 percent.
But those provisions were taken out once the bill made its way to the Texas Senate, which limited the program’s expansion to PTSD and cancer patients. Previously, only patients with terminal cancer and a few acute seizure disorders could access medical marijuana.
The upper chamber also agreed to increase the legal limit for THC, but only up to 1 percent.
Texas is among 47 states and four territories that offer medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.