Eyes on the 2019 Texas Legislature and Medical Cannabis Policy: Four Political Influencers to Follow
With the biennial Texas legislative session starting Jan. 8, medical cannabis advocates are hoping 2019 will be the year the Texas medical cannabis program is expanded.
The Compassionate Use Act passed in 2015, made it legal for Texans with intractable epilepsy to access low-THC cannabis oil medicine rich in the compound cannabidiol (CBD). The program didn’t become fully operational until early 2018, when licensed businesses started serving patients who had a doctor’s prescription for CBD oil. Since opening in February, Compassionate Cultivation has served hundreds of patients across Texas as the provider of choice for physicians and patients.
Many Texans have wanted to broaden the scope of the state’s Compassionate Use Program so that more patients can access medical cannabis, including people with other forms of epilepsy; those suffering from spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions; autism; terminal illness; and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In the 2017 legislative session, House Bill 2107, a measure that would have made medical cannabis available to Texans with a variety of debilitating health conditions, garnered an encouraging amount of bipartisan support but ultimately fell short of advancing to a vote by the full legislature. Patient advocates are gearing up to lobby for expanding access to medical cannabis in 2019.
Here are four political influencers to watch in the upcoming legislative session:
State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth
First elected in 2012, state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-District 91, is a native Texan with more than three decades of experience in nursing and medical-business consulting. Her conservative bona fides and her extensive experience in the health-care industry gave weight and authority to her push for the 2015 CUA—she authored HB 892 and sponsored its sister bill SB 339. After the CUA was signed into law, she was honored for championing the legislation despite cannabis law reform being a hot-button issue in the conservative Texas legislature. She’s definitely a lawmaker that Texas medical cannabis advocates should track closely in 2019.
Email via Texas House member page for District 91
Facebook: @Stephanie Klick
State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville
Democratic Rep. Eddie Lucio III is a lifelong Texan, lawyer and a five-term representative of Texas’ District 38. In 2017, he fought to expand the CUA by co-authoring and co-sponsoring HB 2107, a bill that received significant bipartisan support. After the bill expired before making it to the floor for a vote, he and one of the bill’s Republican co-sponsors, Rep. Jason Isaac, vowed to continue their efforts to expand access to medical cannabis in future legislative sessions. This past summer, news reports pointed to Lucio pursuing medical cannabis legislation in the upcoming legislative session.
Email via Texas House member page for District 38
State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, presumptive Speaker of the House
Rep. Dennis Bonnen is a Houston native who was first elected to the Texas Legislature in 1996. He was one of approximately three dozen House lawmakers who voted against the CUA in 2015, and it’s unclear what position he will take on Texas medical cannabis in 2019. According to the Odessa American, he currently has the support of 109 members of the 150-member House, including 31 Democrats, to become the new Speaker, and if sworn in, he’ll be the fourth-most powerful elected official in the state of Texas. On Dec. 17, East Texas Matters reported that Mr. Bonnen anticipates medical cannabis “to be a hot issue this year.”
Email via Texas House member page for District 25
Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas
Gov. Greg Abbott, who early in his governorship voiced his opposition to legalizing medical cannabis in any form, eventually shifted on this mindset and signed the CUA in 2015. At the time of the signing, Abbott was firm that he saw no future for medical-cannabis expansion in Texas. Yet, at a gubernatorial debate Sept. 28, he agreed that parents of autistic children and others “have made a very strong, compelling case” about legalizing medical cannabis. Although he stated he was “still not convinced yet,” political observers pointed out that even a small shift on his part could mark a massive sea change for Texas. His comments gave activists hope that he is listening to the families of patients whose lives could be improved with medical cannabis. Medical cannabis advocates should continue to voice their concerns to his office to ensure this remains a top-of-mind issue.