Scrutiny continues to hover around the relationship between medical marijuana and Texas. Back in 2015 Texas approved the Compassionate Use Act, which authorized the usage of CBD oil to patients with intractable epilepsy who have not responded to two types of federally approved medication.
It is one of the most limiting medical marijuana programs in the country. Though it was announced that Texans would see the opening of one of only three licensed dispensaries by late 2017, that date has been pushed back to early 2018.
Many families have left out by the program. None of the three licensed dispensaries reside either in the west half of the state nor along the Mexico-US border where townships are booming. In addition, because of the specificity of the law, it can exclude some patients who appear to qualify or who would seem to clearly benefit from the medication. As the Texas Observer notes, more than 345,000 Texans with epilepsy do not qualify under the Compassionate Use Act.
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Among those patients is 12-year-old Micah Jensen, who has autism and temporal lobe epilepsy. Last year, he began suffering from severe migraines. Doctors determined that Micah’s frequent seizures were triggering inflammation and swelling in his brain, inducing the migraines, and that his body wasn’t responding properly to his anticonvulsant, Lamictal. Doctors upped his dosage of the powerful drug, which includes deleterious side effects like weight gain and can cause autistic behaviors to flare up such as self-injury.
Jensen’s [mother] started reading news reports about children who successfully used cannabis to treat autism or epilepsy in Colorado. Since Micah is diagnosed with both, she hoped cannabis could wean him off Lamictal, but Jensen learned her son didn’t qualify for Texas’ nascent medical marijuana program.
Jensen said Micah’s condition is “not bad enough” to participate, even though his epilepsy is incurable. Because he responds to treatment, his case doesn’t meet the definition of intractable epilepsy. His seizures can be temporarily controlled by adjusting the dose of Lamictal at least three times a year, but she fears the neurologist will eventually prescribe another anticonvulsant with additional side effects.
Micah is not alone. Seven-year-old Lailah Ollervidez is bound by wheelchair and has a type of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Though she suffers several seizures a day, Lailah isn’t classified as having intractable epilepsy. And even she was, the Ollervidez family reside near the Texas-Mexico border and the closest dispensary would be three hours away.
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“It’s heartbreaking. Being able to say, ‘Yes, you can get it,’ but reading over the whole law there is still some things we have to jump over,” mother Cristina Ollervidez told the Associated Press.
“Seeing Texas put limitations, I do get that part,” Ollervidez said. “But I don’t think they did their exact research.”
More families abound who either don’t qualify or don’t possess the means to attain treatment under the Texas Compassionate Use Act. Advocates such as Jensen lobbied during the 2017 Texas legislative session to expand the program so that doctors could approve medical marijuana use for any patient with a debilitating medical condition. While they were successful in clearing the bill through a committee, it was never even considered by the full House.