North Texas Leads on Medical Marijuana and E-Cigarette Legislation

Fort Worth Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick’s bill to expand medical marijauna coverage has passed the Texas House of Representatives by a vote of 133-10, and will head to the Senate where it will be debated further. Klick’s bill was accompanied by another more expansive medical marijauna bill authored by Brownsville Democrat Rep. Eddie Lucio III, which also passed by an overwhelming majority.

Currently, Texas’ Compassionate Use Act says that intractable epilepsy is the only condition that can be legally treated by cannabis with low levels of THC. Klick, a nurse, is the author of the 2015 Compassionate Use Act. But the new bill, HB 3703, would expand cannabis use to patients with multiple sclerosis, persistent muscle spasms and all forms of epilepsy as well as create a program to study the impacts of THC through the state’s Health and Human Services Department.

“We need more data for us to truly know if this medication helps other conditions,” Klick told the Dallas Morning News. “Our state-of-the-art research facilities here in Texas are well-suited to participate in this research.”

Meanwhile, Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council President Steve Love helped initiate a bill that would have made it more difficult and expensive to obtain e-cigarettes, but it the bill died in the house after North Texas Republican Jonathan Strickland killed it with a point of order this week after lobbying from tobacco companies. House Bill 4013, which is accompanied by a Senate bill, would approve a 10% state retail excise tax on e-cigarette and vape tobacco products.

Love approached North Texas Democrat Sen. Nathan Johnson after his election last fall about making it more difficult for minors to use e-cigs. The bill’s fiscal note says it will net the state $16.6 million in its first year, fiscal year 2020, and more than $20 million a year starting in September 2021, adding $1 to $5 per purchase.

The bill also calls for the state comptroller to certify training for vendors about not selling to minors, with fines or suspensions of the vendors sales tax if the plan is not followed.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Love was motivated when the Centers for Disease Control announced that over a fifth of American high school students and five percent of middle school students used e-cigs.

“We wanted to make sure the sale of e-cigs to minors are regulated in the same manner that cigarettes are regulated,” Johnson told DMN.

“ This is certainly very disappointing action related to the serious epidemic of young people using vapor products and electronic cigarettes,” Love said in a statement. “The nicotine is very addictive and has become a public health crisis. Senator Nathan Johnson from Dallas should be commended for caring about the health and safety of our young people as he worked conscientiously on this bill.  The CDC has statistics that clearly give evidential proof of the dramatic increase in the use of these products by middle school and high school students. We should ask ourselves an important question routinely—Are we improving the public health of our community?”

Read more about the cannabis legislation here and the e-cig legislation here.