AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas House approved Wednesday a bill that would expand eligibility to people who suffer from chronic pain to the state’s medical marijuana program. If the bill passes into law, it will go into effect Sept. 1. 

Who is currently eligible?

Texas lawmakers passed the Compassion Use Program in 2015. Lawmakers then passed bills further expanding the program in 2019 and 2021. 

The program initially only applied to patients with intractable epilepsy. After the two subsequent bills passed into law, the program became open to all patients who live with the following conditions: epilepsy, a seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and incurable neurodegenerative disease. 

How to get medical marijuana?

In order to get medical marijuana in the state, you must have one of the aforementioned medical conditions, be a permanent Texas resident and find a certified physician. The Department of Public Safety has a search engine to help patients find certified physicians in their area. 

The doctor first must determine that the benefits of THC products outweigh the risks and then they will enter a prescription into the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT). The patient or legal guardian then can head to a licensed dispensary to pick up their medication. 

Since the program’s inception, the number of certified doctors who can prescribe THC products has grown precipitously. By the end of 2018, there were only 57 doctors certified in the state. That number jumped to 667 by the end of 2022 and rose to over 700 in March. 

Similarly, the number of patients has grown as well. Now, over 50,000 Texans are listed in the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas.

But there are only two licensed dispensaries for all the Texans wanting to access the product. Though some of the dispensaries deliver, one Texas veteran and program recipient said getting THC products is difficult and expensive. 

He wished to remain anonymous because of the subject. The veteran lives about an hour outside of Austin and said medical marijuana has helped him and many other veterans he knows.

He said because the dispensaries are far away, several veterans he knows choose to buy it illegally, saying it is cheaper and easier to get that way.