Medical cannabis access expanding in Texas

More Texans suffering from incurable disorders will soon have access to medical cannabis. On Friday, the governor signed a bill expanding Texas' Compassionate Use Program to seven diagnoses.

Previously, only people with intractable epilepsy who met several qualifications had legal access to medical cannabis or CBD oil. Now, the law includes people with epilepsy, seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, terminal cancer and incurable neuro-degenerative disease.

15-year-old Miles Tolany has faced an uphill battle his entire life. His mother Debbie Tolany has tried everything to help treat his severe autism, intractable epilepsy and chronic kidney disease, sometimes with terrifying consequences.

“Most of the drugs that my son has been prescribed are not safe. He's had quite a few really devastating reactions to antiepileptic pharmaceuticals that left us, honestly, feeling like he was going to die,” Tolany said.  

When she heard there was research showing medical cannabis could help with her son's autism and epilepsy with little to no side effects, she was encouraged. 

The Texas Compassionate Use Act allowed Miles to try CBD oil last year, cutting the length and frequency of his seizures almost in half when used in conjunction with his epilepsy medication. It also had an anti-inflammatory effect on his digestive system helping with mood swings.  

“I do believe it's very much been helpful in treating his autism,” said Tolany, who also worked to pass the bill with Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism. 

Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3703 into law Friday, expanding the Compassionate Use Act to include seven diseases or disorders. 

“It's a little bit bittersweet when you see this happen, because you feel really good about the new indications, the new patients that will be able to get access, but then you also have sort of this empty hollow feeling for those that won't get access to it,” said Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation, one of three state-regulated providers of medical cannabis in Texas. 

One group left out of the bill is veterans suffering with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. 

“To have to wait another two years before another condition gets added, especially a condition like PTSD, and with those in our veteran community that are suffering with that, it's really disappointing,” Denton said. 

Medical cannabis advocates also feel the state's .5 percent cap on the psychoactive ingredient THC is too strict. 

“Miles can be aggressive and self-injurious and I know that the THC would help calm his body in those periods,” said Tolany. 

“If anything, in the future, we probably need to look at moving up that low THC bar even higher here in Texas to make it even more affective,” said Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. 

While the updated law will allow thousands more Texans access to medical grade CBD oil, it has yet to go far enough for many families, like the Tolanys, to experience the relief they are hoping for. 

“I'm afraid I could lose my child while we wait for this to expand in all honesty,” Tolany said. 

Denton expects the new conditions will be added in by the Department of Public Safety in the fall of this year.