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Texas Is Attempting to Combat Its Opioid Crisis With Medical Cannabis

May 11, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Texas Is Attempting to Combat Its Opioid Crisis With Medical Cannabis

In 2015, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed patients with intractable epilepsy to access low-THC cannabis oil containing no more than 0.5% THC and at least 10% CBD. In 2019, the program was expanded to include patients with other qualifying conditions, such as terminal cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, and certain neurological disorders. However, the program remains highly restrictive, and patients are required to meet several requirements, including obtaining a recommendation from a registered physician and obtaining a CBD prescription from a licensed dispensary.

As of September 2021, there were only three licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Texas, and they were only authorized to sell low-THC cannabis oil. Additionally, the qualifying conditions were limited, and the amount of THC in medical marijuana products was strictly limited, making it difficult for patients to access the full range of potential benefits that medical marijuana may offer. However, there have been efforts to expand the program in Texas, with lawmakers proposing bills to increase the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products and add more qualifying conditions.

Efforts to Move Medical Marijuana Forward

House Bill 218, also known as the Texas Marijuana Decriminalization Bill, was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives in 2021. The bill proposed reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a class C misdemeanor, which would remove the possibility of jail time and lower the maximum fine to $500. The bill did not pass during the 2021 legislative session but could be reintroduced in future sessions.

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HB 1805, from Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick, was introduced during the 2021 legislative session in Texas. The bill proposed expanding the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing patients with certain medical conditions to access medical marijuana, increasing THC in medical marijuana products, and adding more licensed dispensaries. The bill also proposed establishing a research program to study the effectiveness of medical marijuana for various medical conditions. It passed in the Texas House of Representatives but did not make it to a vote in the Senate before the end of the session. The bill may be reintroduced in a future legislative session.

Medical Marijuana Combating the Opioid Crisis 

Evidence suggests that medical marijuana may be decreasing the opioid epidemic. Several studies have found that states with medical marijuana programs have experienced a reduction in opioid overdose deaths, particularly in cases where medical marijuana is being used to treat chronic pain. A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that states with medical marijuana laws had a 25% lower rate of opioid overdose deaths compared to states without such laws. Another study published in Health Affairs in 2018 found that the enactment of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 6.38% reduction in opioid prescriptions.

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between medical marijuana and the opioid epidemic, these studies suggest that medical marijuana may be useful in combating the opioid crisis. However, it’s worth noting that medical marijuana should not be seen as a replacement for evidence-based treatments for opioid addiction, such as medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapies.

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