A record number of marijuana-related bills — 63 — were filed this legislative session. But only two bills made it across the finish line: the regulation of industrial hemp and the expansion of the state’s Compassionate Use Program.
When the federal government legalized industrial hemp late last year, it opened the door to many more businesses selling hemp-derived CBD oil.
It also created a demand among people who wanted to use it as an alternative to traditional medicine.
One of those people was Sherri Santos, a retired Navy nurse living in San Antonio.
“You see signs popping up all over now," she said, "and so I buy it locally.”
Santos served in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where, her doctors said, she developed PTSD.
“The night of the air and ground assaults in Kandahar, none of us slept," she recalled. "But that next night when I went to sleep I had constant nightmares that whole night long that I was laying on the ground, unable to move, and a rocket was coming toward my head — so it pretty much started right away.”
When she returned from her tour, she began counseling sessions and started using CBD to treat her anxiety-related PTSD.
“It got me to the point where I could be driving," she said, "[and if I] saw a helicopter, I wouldn’t have to pull over and have an anxiety attack, because the ‘helos’ brought in the wounded. So it’s better.”
The CBD oil she takes is not very different from what’s offered under the state’s Compassionate Use Program. The levels of psychoactive THC in CBD products must stay below 0.3%, whereas CBD oil produced under the state’s guidance can contain up to 0.5%.
Santos says she would prefer to use CBD oil through the Compassionate Use Program but PTSD is not a qualifying condition.
"[Politicians] wave the flag a lot about how many veterans work in Texas and how many bases are in Texas," she said, "but they do not seem interested helping a large portion of us. ..."
Texas’ Compassionate Use Program was signed into law in 2015. For the past four years, the only qualifying condition was intractable epilepsy.
But during this past session, lawmakers voted to change that. It now includes any form of epilepsy and muscle spasticity as well as terminal cancer, any form of neurodegenerative disease, autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Fort Worth Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick introduced the bill. “It is based on what we have the scientific evidence for at this time,” she said.
Now that the federal government has legalized industrial hemp, more research into its treatment potential is expected to come to light, and lawmakers may add more qualifying conditions.
Legislators also set up a program to allow hemp to be grown in the state and for hemp-derived CBD products to be regulated.
While the state’s Compassionate Use Program only serves about 700 patients, there is now a large regulated market for hemp and CBD products in Texas that is poised for further growing.