Medical marijuana and the legislative process

Texas lawmaker hopes to expand legal use of marijuana for medical use in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas – Some Texas lawmakers believe patients, including children, shouldn’t have to suffer. And if they can do anything to prevent that, they are going to do everything they can at the state Capitol this session.

The lawmaker heading up an effort to expand medical marijuana laws in Texas is state Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, who filed SB 269. It would help Texans with chronic medical conditions.

Proposed legislation may be the only way to get medical marijuana passed in Texas, though many lawmakers agreed that it shouldn’t be up to the state to decide. They say experts, like doctors, know best.

“I filed this bill because doctors, not politicians, should determine the best treatment for severely ill Texans,” Menendez said at the Capitol. “This is a legitimate medicine that can help a variety of sick people from a grandmother suffering from cancer to a veteran coping with PTSD.”

State Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, agrees.

“We have to have a meaningful discussion about what are the options,” Rodriguez said. “Many of us have heard from constituents who say, ‘Look, this is a medical option that is helping solve a problem that I have.”

Rodriguez said that he is not a doctor and that when it comes to expertise in the field, he will turn to the medical profession to provide case studies, anecdotes and evidence that medical marijuana is the right thing for Texans.

“I know that when I’m having to take a vote on something that is related to the medical field that I’m not an expert in, I rely on the expertise of the Texas Medical Association, doctors in my community, and I think that is a very valid point. Should this be something that politicians should be deciding, or should it be experts in the field?” he asked.

And if that doesn’t work, Rodriguez believes the issue should be put before voters.

“Oftentimes within this  body of 150 state representatives and 31 state senators where we just simply can’t make a decision,” he said.

Already on the books is a law that allows patients with intractable epilepsy to use what’s known as a low tetrahydrocannabinol or cannabis oil. It’s called T.CUP -- the Texas Compassionate Use Act. But Menendez said that while it helps people, the act leaves out millions of others who don’t fall under the T.CUP qualifications.

There are critics to the bill.

During that landmark legislation in 2015, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that he would not support any kind of effort to make medical marijuana legal.

“I remain convinced that Texas should not legalize marijuana, nor should Texas open the door for conventional marijuana to be used for medical or medicinal purposes, and as governor I will not allow it," Abbott said.

According to his office, his position has not changed.

It remains to be seen if the issue will fall along party lines during this legislative session or if Republicans, who control the House and Senate, would support the bill in order for it to pass.