Health

Texas House Public Health committee holds emotional hearing on medical marijuana bills

The Texas House Public Health committee convened Thursday to consider a slate of bills for expanded medical marijuana use. Testimony in support of the bills frequently became emotional.

Of the 10 proposals scheduled to be heard by the committee, three bills received testimony before the hearing ended in recess. The first was House Bill 122 by state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin. HB 122 would set up a legal defense for physicians who discuss marijuana with their patients as a treatment option and those who possess marijuana at the recommendation of their doctor.

Testifying in favor of her bill, Hinojosa said its primary goal is not to legalize medical marijuana use.  

“This bill does not legalize marijuana,” Hinojosa said at the hearing. “But it would provide individuals with an opportunity to explain to a judge their situation and give the judge the ability to accept or reject their affirmative defense.”

Following Hinojosa’s remarks, Piper Lindine, a witness from Sugar Land, Texas, spoke in favor of HB 122 on behalf of her son.

“I’m here today because I have an 11-year-old son who began having seizures at age three-and-a-half,” Lindine said. “We have been medicating him with high-THC cannabis for five years now, and I desperately need this bill to pass because I’m at risk for losing my kids, for going to jail, and it’s just not right.”

THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, and THC levels are regulated in cannabis distributed for medical use.  

The next testimony the committee heard was on HB 1405 by state Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, which would place hospice patients under the protections of the Compassionate Use Act, a recently-passed law allowing patients with intractable epilepsy to be treated with low-THC cannabis oil. Intractable epilepsy is a condition where non-cannabis treatments have not controlled a patient’s seizures. 

“What this bill does is, for those class of patients that have been deemed (hospice eligible), they would be eligible for the use of the cannabis in the exact same formula and dosage that is already legal in Texas,” Thierry said at the hearing.

Thierry said allowing terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis is an expansion of the Compassionate Use Act’s original goal.

“This, in my soul, is the true definition of compassionate use,” Thierry said. 

The final bill heard before the committee’s recess was HB 3703 by state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth. If passed, the bill would serve as an extension of the Compassionate Use Act, setting up a medical cannabis research program to be monitored by the Health and Human Services Commission. The bill would also expand current medical cannabis use to all epilepsy patients, not just those with intractable epilepsy.

Julia Patterson, a witness with intractable epilepsy, testified in favor of HB 3703. She said using medical cannabis oil with high levels of CBD — the pain-relieving element of cannabis — allowed her to finally get her driver’s license after her condition previously prevented her from doing so.

“Before CBD oil, I had 200 seizures per day,” Patterson said. “After CBD oil, I’m one year seizure-free, and I was able to, this December, get my driver’s license. This is unbelievable to me.”

During Thursday’s testimony, no witnesses or lawmakers testified against any of the bills.

 

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