Texas senator files bill to expand medical marijuana use

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AUSTIN (KXAN/NEXSTAR) – A Texas senator is looking to help patients with debilitating and chronic medical conditions receive cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation.

Democratic Senator Jose Menendez filed Senate Bill 269 Tuesday morning. Menendez was joined by veterans, doctors and families at the State Capitol.

They argued that the proposed legislation is the only way for many of them to live a normal life.

“I filed this bill because doctors, not politicians, should determine the best treatment for severely ill Texans,” Menendez said. “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.”

“The negative behaviors that my son often exhibits as a result of his medical condition, his lack of ability to speak or communicate,” Debbie Tolany said, “and his body’s inability to regulate itself from a sensory perspective would greatly benefit from the use of THC.”

Tolany’s 13-year-old son, Miles, who is severely affected by autism, has intractable epilepsy and a rare endocrine disorder called hypoparathyroid disease.

“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,” Tolany said.

Last year, the Texas legislature passed the Texas Compassionate Use Act (T.CUP), allowing patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy to access “low THC cannabis oil.”

Menendez, who co-authored the 2015 legislation, says it leaves out 1.7 million Texans who do not qualify for the current program. He said SB 269 would increase the number of debilitating medical conditions that qualify for T.CUP, as well as increase the access to more types of medical cannabis.

“Quite frankly, in the law enforcement circles, it seems to be an excuse in order to pave the way for recreational marijuana,” Jackson County Sheriff AJ Louderback said. “I mean, how can you ask law enforcement to deal with more narcotics and drugs.”

Louderback is the Legislative Director for the Sheriff’s Association of Texas. He says the organization opposes SB 259 and any law that expands the use of marijuana in Texas.

“We were opposed to the medical marijuana for the lack of science and we opposed that vigorously in 2015, and we will oppose this bill even more vigorously,” Louderback said. “We don’t see much on the social cost that marijuana plays in our society, like juvenile crime and the workforce issues that go along with that.”

Menendez said that he has a tough task ahead. In order for his bill to pass, he must convince the GOP-controlled Legislature as well as gain the support of Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

Right now, 28 states have legalized medical cannabis.

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