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Medical Marijuana Could Become More Widely Available In Texas

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Elizabeth Miller is a reluctant criminal.

"I've been in pain my whole life," she explains.

The Bedford resident has a rare condition called hypermobile Ehler-Danlos Syndrome.

"Joint pain, muscle pain, nerve pain, headaches," she recites, ticking through some of the many problems it causes.

The only way to manage them all, she says, is with cannabis – or marijuana – which she purchases illegally.

"I have to commit a felony every day, and I've been at the Capitol all week telling the lawmakers that," she said.

She's in Austin lobbying to expand the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP).

The program currently allows Texans with epilepsy, autism and several other conditions access to low-THC medical cannabis.

House Bill 1535, authored by Republican State Rep. Stephanie Klick, would allow those with chronic pain or cancer, as well as veterans with PTSD, to enroll in the program, as well.

Doctors and patients testified it would offer an alternative to highly addictive opioids.

"Cancer may have taken five years of my life. Being stuck on pain meds took an additional six," said James Michael Thompson, testifying before the House's public health committee.

Klick's bill also raises the cap on how much THC is allowed in state sanctioned medical marijuana.

The current limit of .5% THC makes it just slightly stronger than publicly available CBD oil. The new limit would increase the allowable amount to 5%, ten times as much.

Many advocates of an expanded TCUP would like to see it go farther by removing a cap on THC altogether for medical cannabis, as most states in the country have already done.

"I'm a Bronze Star recipient. I served in combat more than once. And I'm sitting here pleading with you, begging you," testified Jason Walker, a disabled veteran with PTSD. He worries low-THC cannabis won't do enough to help fellow combat veterans.

"They're gonna commit suicide. They're gonna kill themselves. And that's gonna be on you because you won't remove the THC cap," he told lawmakers.

He also asked representatives to eliminate the requirement PTSD patients be veterans to enroll in TCUP.

"First responders and everybody else in this world can get PTSD. It's not just veterans who've been to combat" he said.

"As more research and data is available, more conditions can be added," said Rep. Klick.

A provision in her bill would allow the Texas Department of State Health Services to add more qualifying conditions in the future. The legislation also facilitates marijuana related research by removing existing impediments. That research, Klick believes, could provide evidence to support further changes to the program.

"I'm not trying to get high," says Elizabeth, who's eager for a quiet, law-abiding life.

For now, though, she plans to keep talking. She's just hoping people are listening.

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