Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill Monday legalizing the limited use of marijuana extracts for severe forms of epilepsy.
The law allows the use of cannabis oils that are high in CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-euphoric compound found in the marijuana plant, and low in THC -- the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana associated with the "high" sensation -- to treat intractable epilepsy. The state will oversee the regulation and distribution of the cannabis oils, which are only available to patients who have tried at least two traditional epilepsy medications and have not found them to be effective. The patient must also get the approval of two doctors before being able to take advantage of the new law.
While marijuana policy reformers are critical of laws like the one signed today for not providing fuller access to medical marijuana, Heather Fazio, Texas political director for Marijuana Policy Project, still saw today as a historic moment for Texas.
“While this program leaves most patients behind and we’re concerned about its functionality, today is one for the history books," Fazio said. "The Texas Legislature is sending a resounding message: Marijuana is medicine. We commend our Texas lawmakers and look forward to continuing this conversation when the 85th Legislature convenes in 2017.”
Abbot's signing makes Texas the 15th state to allow for limited medical use of marijuana-derived oils. Twenty-three other states have adopted broader laws that allow for some form of legal and regulated cultivation, sale or production of multiple strains of medical marijuana for multiple debilitating conditions. The federal government considers all forms of marijuana to be illegal and classifies the plant as one of the "most dangerous" with no medical value.
CBD has been found to be effective not only at treating epilepsy, but also at stopping metastasis of many kinds of aggressive cancer and at killing cancerous cells found in leukemia patients. But critics of these limited CBD extract bills contend that while support for low-THC/high-CBD laws is growing, the laws are too restrictive, as there is research suggesting that THC may also be effective in treating epilepsy.
According to the bill, at least three CBD oil-dispensing organizations must be approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety by Sept. 1, 2017, provided that at least three dispensary applicants in the state have been approved by that time.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story, citing an older version of the bill, misstated the state regulators' licensing deadline for dispensing organizations.