Last week, the Texas State House of Representatives passed House Bill 1535 to expand permissive medical use of low-THC cannabis by patients with a medical condition approved by the Health and Human Services Commission. The bill would broaden the State’s medicinal cannabis program, or the Compassionate Use Program.

This is a small step, but any steps forward in Texas should be applauded. There are only approximately 5,000 patients currently registered in the Compassionate Use Program (out of a population of nearly 29 million), and only three cannabis businesses are licensed in the state. House Bill 1535 will likely increase both numbers, as well as the relief available to Texas patients.

Currently, medical cannabis THC levels, the psychoactive compound, are limited to 0.5% by weight of THC. That limits the effectiveness of medical marijuana treatments, and the willingness of patients and doctors to participate in the Program. Under House Bill 1535, physicians may prescribe low-THC cannabis with THC levels up to 5% by weight, ten times the current potency. This change will make Texas’s medical program akin to Georgia’s new low-THC medical program. Additionally, House Bill 1535 expands the conditions for which low-THC can be prescribed to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cancer. Both these changes should increase participation in the program, and with that, eventually expand the cultivation, manufacturing, and retail sides of the industry.

House Bill 1535 also charges the public safety director of the Department of Public Safety with the authority to adopt or otherwise amend department rules for the cultivation, processing and dispensing of low-THC cannabis. It is unclear how the director would use that authority. One potential change would be to issue more specific licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, and retail. Currently, the three existing Texas cannabis businesses are all vertically integrated. As seen in other states such as Florida, vertical integration makes it very difficult for new entrants to enter the industry.

House Bill 1535 will now head to the state Senate for consideration, where its fate is unclear. Stay tuned to our blog for more cannabis developments in Texas and elsewhere.