State medical marijuana program expansion passes in Texas Senate

The Texas Senate passed a bill Wednesday expanding the use of medical marijuana.

House Bill 3703 ensures more patients qualify for the Texas Compassionate Use Program allowing them access to medicine from state approved dispensaries.

The bill includes patients with seven types of conditions: multiple sclerosis (MS), spasticity, epilepsy, terminal cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autism and neurological disorders such as Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. 

Jax Finkle with Texas NORML, a chapter of the national organization advocating for marijuana law reform, said the bill originally included more conditions but people with post-traumatic stress and chronic pain did not make this session's list.

"Some of them are quite devastated because this has been a life changing medicine for them and I think that the senators recognize that," Finkle said. "We are thankful for the expansion that we've gotten but there's still a lot of work to do make sure that patients have the true medical freedom that we need in the state." 

For Shawn Meredith the passing of the bill is a step in the right direction. Meredith was 20 years old when he said the scaffolding from a construction site fell and injured his spine. 

"A lot of people are dealing with severe, medical conditions that can be helped by this natural safe effective medicine,” Meredith said. “If it helps with the severe spasms and nerve pain that i have it'll be worth all of the toil we put into the capitol to make this happen."

After the bill passed state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) assured the senate floor the bill was not a pathway to legalizing marijuana.

"This is not about recreational, this is about medicine prescribed by doctors, board certified in a specialty area. Very different from smoking pot and legalizing pot, Campbell said.

The House still has to agree on the Senate’s version of the bill before it can land on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.