What El Pasoans need to know about the medical cannabis expansion bill taking effect

Local News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A modest cannabis reform bill takes effect Wednesday that expands Texas’ low-level THC medical cannabis program to include people living with cancer and PTSD, while also increasing the cap on medical cannabis to 1 percent.

The Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) provides low-level THC oil to registered patients who have prescriptions from their physicians to treat those with cancer, PTSD, epilepsy and more.

“The cannabis plant is very helpful with the side effects of both chemo and radiation that people experience,” Jax Finkel, executive director at Texas NORML, told KTSM 9 News. “And we also know that it’s very helpful for people who have PTSD.”

Finkel said that another facet of the cannabis reform bill taking effect is that the regulatory process to create research programs is set to begin by the end of the year.

“We’ll be able to take Texas products and test them on different conditions at different formulations,” said Finkel. “And it’s going to be really important in understanding how this plant works for patients.”

Despite the modest expansion of the TCUP program, Texas remains one of only 14 states in the country lacking comprehensive medical cannabis laws and is also one of only 19 states to continue to impose jail time for simple cannabis possession.

The city of El Paso has a budget item that will fund testing for both large and small quantities of cannabis despite the lenient approach of cities and counties throughout the rest of Texas. 

“It’s not going to go very far because there are just so many cases,” said Alexandria Serra, a Texas criminal attorney who has her own practice in El Paso. “The other thing is that even when you’re getting these citations, these charges — the cite and release program, the first chance program —all that stuff, that’s still part of your record.”

KTSM reached out to Texas Republicans and Democrats for comment on the status of the state’s cannabis legislation. The RNC of Texas declined to comment on cannabis and Democratic Rep. Joe Moody was in session all day, but is set to send a statement to KTSM. 

“Government always gets to choose its priorities, and nothing to do with enforcement around cannabis has ever led to a worthwhile return for our taxpayers or improvements in public health or public safety—quite the opposite,” wrote Mood. “That’s why, at the state level, we’re continuing to expand medical options like TCUP, with new provisions taking effect today, and getting closer and closer to ending criminal enforcement in Texas altogether.”

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