Texas legislature considers marijuana legislation as the clock ticks on 2021 session
AUSTIN, Texas - With less than two weeks left in the 2021 Texas legislature session, three marijuana-related bills are still under consideration.
House Bill 3948 would expand hemp research. It would also restrict the sale and production of Delta-8 – a form of THC. House Bill 2593 would reduce penalties for possessing two ounces of THC concentrates from a felony to a Class B misdemeanor.
"One of the arguably most important items out there right now is House Bill 1535," said Jax Finkel, executive director of Texas Norml.
House Bill 1535 - the third bill - would expand the Texas Compassionate Use Program to those with cancer - terminal or not - chronic pain and PTSD. Austinite and cancer survivor Mike Thompson is a supporter of the bill. He was forced to rely on traditional pain medications for years.
"How many people are out there right now where their only option is being stuck on narcotics for weeks, months, years when they could have something that has little to no side effects and is incredibly effective at managing pain, anxiety, and depression?" said Thompson.
The 35-year-old’s journey started when he was just a child. He had leukemia three times and then a cancerous tumor along his jaw that had to be removed. More than 75 surgeries later, he’s doing better and in remission, but still deals with chronic pain.
He and other advocates for this legislation also believe the lack of access to medical marijuana has contributed to an opioid epidemic.
"The CDC and NIDA have said that there are zero fatal overdose deaths from cannabis, but we see that there are over 50,000 people that are overdosing every year from opioids," said Finkel. "We’re hearing from lots of pain management doctors that are wanting to be able to offer something besides opioids."
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However, Aubree Adams, who advocates against expanding any marijuana use, cited different science. "The science shows that THC increases the harmful symptoms of PTSD", said Adams with Citizens for a Safe and Healthy Texas. "There are plenty of medications out there that have science behind them that are proven to help these ailments."
Adams spoke to FOX 7 while she was in the airport between flights. She testified in Colorado – her home state - on Wednesday for marijuana legislation being considered there. She left Colorado for Texas after marijuana became legal, and her son became addicted to high-potency THC.
"I sought refuge in Texas to try and save my son," she said.
Adams said her son became irrational, paranoid, violent, and even attempted suicide. He was sober for a time, then relapsed, and she said she hasn’t seen him since June of 2020.
"Marijuana is a nightmare," she said. "It’s a hard dangerous drug and it’s the perfect drug to hijack our children’s brains, we don’t need to normalize it, we don’t need to expand it."
After seeing what has happened in Colorado, she is wary of other states heading in the same direction. "When it comes to policymaking, you can’t make those decisions based on anecdotes," she said. "You have to make them based on science, and the science is showing that it increases the harms."
For Thompson, he spoke from a different kind of personal experience. Though he is still waiting to access medical marijuana for his own chronic pain, he’s heard positive stories from others outside of Texas.
He’s also seen how no longer relying heavily on pain medications has changed his life. He said he started mountain climbing and even competed in the Ironman World Championships. He’ll soon be getting his master’s degree from Texas State.
"When I got off drugs, that’s when I kind of returned to life again," he said.
Thompson voiced frustration over HB 1535, specifically, being held up in the Senate, while the governor recently signed an alcohol-to-go bill into law. He said HB 1535 has nothing to do with recreational use, it’s about helping those in pain.
"If I wanted to go do drugs I could go to any doctor right now and get as many narcotics as I want, and I’ve done it before because I’ve had to," he said. "I can go to a restaurant and bring a big ol’ thing of margaritas home and get plastered if I want."
As of Wednesday, HB 3498 and HB 2493 had been passed by a Senate committee and were waiting for a vote on the floor. HB 1535 is waiting to be referred by the lieutenant governor to a Senate committee.
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