With some of the most restrictive medical cannabis laws in the nation weighing on the backs of Texas patients and families, State Senator José Menéndez (D) filed Senate Bill 269 to help lighten the load.
Melendez packed the Texas State Capitol in Austin with patients, families, caregivers and Lone Star State Medical Professionals, Tuesday, Dec. 6, after officially submitting a bill that would add two dozen conditions to the Texas Compassionate Use Program known as TCUP, and solve a number of issues with the program.
Since word of the bill started making waves yesterday, more patients have reached out to Melendez to offer their support. That included a call from a Texan man who has to move his family to a legal state with broader access than what TCUP will offer — it was Sen. Melendez’s first time hearing the term “medical refugee.”
The Senator affirmed the progress Texas has made in the last year, but said while the bill that already passed was a good start, it was needlessly exclusionary.
“it’s exclusive to intractable epilepsy, and compassion should never be exclusive,” he said. “If it’s good for intractable epilepsy, why can’t we allow patients with cancer, PTSD, MS, Parkinson’s, and other things that could benefit?”
Melendez said that the patients he’s working on behalf of aren’t looking for a backdoor to recreational use — they just want access to the beneficial, low-THC oil already approved for medical use in the state.
One of those patients already benefiting from that oil is Miles Tolany, a non-verbal 13 years old with autism and epilepsy that qualifies him for TCUP. His mother, Debbie Tolany, said he has several other overlapping conditions that his family, caregivers and educators have to battle with on a daily basis.
The Tolanys rarely do traditional family outings anymore, even without Miles due to “the intense guilt they feel from leaving him home with a caregiver.” They’ve attempted varying regiments of three anticonvulsant drugs over the last few years, the first two were met with terrible episodes for the family early in the dosing, they’re keeping him on the third until T.CUP goes into effect next year.
“When he is in pain he can become frustrated and angry to the point of personal injury to himself or us,” she said. “CBD is a wonderful treatment option for inflammation caused by autoimmune dysfunction and some types of seizures. My son needs access to the whole plant to treat his suffering and to help give our family the opportunity to take him out into our community again,” said Debbie Tolonay.
Another community that would benefit from SB 269 is the 1.7 million veterans that currently call the state home.
Taking the torch for them in support of the bill was Kate Cochran-Morgan, a retired Hospital Corpsman Fleet Marine Force 3rd Class Petty Officer.
“I fought for our country’s freedoms,” she said. “I support Senate Bill 269 because my fellow veterans and I should have the freedom to use medical cannabis to treat the diseases that still haunt us.”
Cochran-Morgan was joined by fellow veteran Amanda Berard, a retired army medic now serving as a nurse in San Antonio. Berard noted how critical the situation was currently in light of the opioid overdose epidemic.
”This is especially true with regard to treating chronic and severe pain,” Berard said. “We are facing an opiate epidemic in terms of addiction and overdose death. In fact, states that allow access to medical cannabis for treating chronic pain have seen significant decreases in opiate overdose deaths.”
The Marijuana Policy Project helped the senator with the bill language, which will cover major gaps like lab testing and doctors being able to issue recommendations for medical cannabis as opposed to prescribing it — a language discrepancy which would draw the ire of the Feds left unchecked.
MPP Texas State Political Director Heather Fazio told Cannabis Now the agency is thrilled to have a comprehensive bill introduced, noting last year’s bill was unreasonably restrictive.
“What this bill does is make the program more inclusive and fixes the flawed language,” Fazio said, adding that while November’s big wins at the polls put some wind in the sails of this legislative effort, things were already moving along nicely. “A majority of the Texas legislature is on record on supporting cannabis as medicine, that was an excellent starting point for us to come back to… We’re talking about the integrity of the health care in the state of Texas, we have to get these government prohibitions out of the way.”
Here’s the full list of conditions that would be added by the bil: cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, sickle cell anemia, severe fibromyalgia, spinal cord disease, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or post-concussion syndrome, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Parkinson’s disease, and muscular dystrophy. Another list of qualifying symptoms is also included.
Texas Governor Greg Abbot has previously said he would not sign any legislation, and when asked about the pending legislation he said there has been “no change” in his position.
TELL US, What other conditions should Texas allow to be treated with medical cannabis?