It’s an important time in the marijuana movement in Texas, and this week has been a win for advocates in the Lone Star state. The House of Representatives has supported a bill that will reduce penalties against citizens charged for possession of marijuna concentrates. Additionally, another win took place in the House Public Health committee on Monday, with legislators advancing new laws to require studies on the use of some psychedelic drugs in conjunction with therapy, specifically for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The measure addressing cannabis concentrates will effectively downgrade possession of up to two ounces, so that citizens could only be charged with a class B misdemeanor. It has been currently approved by the full Senate chamber, having previously been stamped with approval by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The final vote is expected within days.
Medical Marijuana and Psychedelics Reform
Upcoming legislation to be assessed in the near future looks at adding some changes to the state medical marijuana program, including adding cancer, chronic pain, and PTSD (exclusively for veterans). The proposal will also create the opportunity to add more qualifying conditions, and raise the THC cap for medical marijuana products from 0.5 percent to five percent.
Alongside the cannabis reform proposals, Rep. Alex Dominguez (D) promoted the legislation to push through psychedelic research, which passed the House Public Health Committee earlier this week. The amendment was approved after changes were made to the initial proposal, limiting the conditions listed in the original bill, and focusing on military veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
“We watched and learned as states across the country and nations around the world are studying these compounds and finding the medical applications for them. It’s time for Texas to join the fight,” said Dominguez in an interview with KVUE. “With the mental health epidemic growing in every segment of American society, it’s clear that current solutions are not succeeding. New approaches are desperately needed for all people suffering from stress and trauma-related mental conditions, but especially for veterans. We must pursue every possible treatment for these issues.”
The bill charges the state with conducting studies focused on the medical benefits and risks of three substances: psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy), and Ketamine (Special K). The state will partner with the Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center. Expressly, it mandates a clinical trial for veterans suffering PTSD utilizing psilocybin, and a comprehensive review of the scientific literature of all three psychedelic substances.
Psychedelic Drugs as Mental Health Treatments
The history of psychedelic drugs and treating mental health goes back as far as the 1950s in the US, when a nationwide backlash against ‘hippie culture’ derailed the scientific credibility of the substances. However, subsequent studies have shown definite positive effects when used in conjunction with therapy in instances of alcoholism, opiate addiction, and PTSD.
The Health and Human Services Commission will be tasked with making quarterly reports available, and the research panel’s findings will be expected by December 2024. As a strange twist, Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry confused many by joining Dominguez in support of this progress, citing his experiences with military families and those with chronic illnesses as motivation.
“I’m a great example of a fairly conservative elected official who is against drugs in any form,” said Perry to KVUE. “Back in 2013, I had a mother come in and visit with me about the medical use of marijuana. I was against that. But she came in and she showed me where her young son could … get over these epileptic seizures by the use of this compound that was overseen medically, appropriately dosed, and that’s what we’re talking about here with this compound of psilocybin in a clinical trial environment. With the right medical oversight, the right diagnosis, the right dosing … working them through this experience and then the right follow-up … these compounds are different than no other compound that we would have in our arsenal. If you will use it properly, it can save lives.”
While these efforts are advancing, other drug policy reforms are on the agenda in the upcoming days: specifically, decriminalizing cannabis possession and an expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program. The wins this week will hopefully give momentum to other drug reform issues. Stay tuned for information about how Texas lawmakers respond to these issues moving forward.
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