AUSTIN, Texas - Three pieces of legislation that would affect the use of cannabis in Texas are headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
House Bill 3948, which was voted on by the Senate on Wednesday, would expand hemp research. House Bill 2593 would reduce penalties for possessing two ounces of THC concentrates from a felony to a Class B misdemeanor. Both bills also include language that would restrict the sale and production of Delta-8 – a form of THC.
House Bill 1535, also approved by the House and Senate, would expand the Texas Compassionate Use Program. Under the amended version, those with cancer and PTSD will qualify while those with chronic pain will not.
"It’s a bit bittersweet," said Morris Denton, CEO of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation. "We know it’s going to help a lot of people, but it’s also leaving a lot of people behind."
He believes many of those dealing with chronic pain will be left with one option - opioids.
"There’s real science and real data that suggests this is a positive step if they would allow chronic pain to be part of the Compassionate Use Program, so it was a real head-scratcher for me that they took that out."
Denton’s business revolves around getting medical marijuana in the hands of patients who qualify, which has been limited to conditions like terminal cancer and epilepsy.
"We get calls from Texans all day long and our team listens to these stories and we’re just heartbroken," he said. "We can’t help them because we know the condition that they have wouldn’t qualify."
Another amendment to HB 1535 caps the amount of THC allowed in cannabis oil at 1% rather than the original 5% cap proposed. It is a slight increase from the status quo - 0.5% - but Denton said it’s still harmful because of the amount of carrier oil someone has to ingest to reach their prescribed dose.
"What if they put a cap on the amount of Ibuprofen that required you to take 20 Advils to do a job that two would normally do?" he said. "That’s essentially what they’re doing with THC."
At Restart CBD in North Austin, CEO and co-founder Shayda Torabi is concerned about House Bill 2593 and House Bill 3498 because of the effect they would have on a product she sells - Delta-8.
Delta-8 is similar to Delta-9 - the more well-known form of THC - but Delta-8 is considered legal in Texas whereas Delta-9 is not.
"It allows them to have that sedated but relaxing effect, pain management, anxiety-relieving, without the paranoia that traditional Delta-9 THC induces," said Torabi.
She said if this legislation passes it would be devastating to her business and her customers. "The door is constantly rotating with people who come in and the first thing they ask for is Delta -8," she said.
Both Torabi and Denton asked ultimately that the choice of these alternatives be up to doctors and patients rather than legislators.
"It’s a plant at the end of the day," said Torabi. "It should be regulated, but people should have access to it so they can figure out what works best for their body and their biochemistry."