During this very coronavirus-impacted Legislative session in Texas, the Legislature made an objectively good decision and expanded the Texas Compassionate Use Program to include veterans like David Bass.
With this new expansion, patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can now qualify for access to the now heavier potency cannabis oil and gummies authorized by the TCUP Program. This is an important addition to the list of qualifying conditions for the many Texas veterans living with PTSD who’ve previously had to rely on illicit market cannabis. While no smokable flower or extracts are allowed under this new program, the products are allowed to be up to one percent by weight, which surprisingly gives more potency than one would imagine on paper.
With PTSD now included, veterans will at last have access to their medicine that should’ve rightfully been theirs. Although, the legislature inexplicably took out provisions allowing both chronic pain as a qualifying condition and allowing the Department of State Health Services to include additional qualifying conditions to TCUP.
As is my tradition when needing a Texas veteran’s perspective on all matters related to cannabis in Texas, I once again had the honor to speak with Texas Veterans for Medical Marijuana founder David Bass to hear exactly how this new expansion could benefit our nation’s heroes. Since the program launched, Bass signed up and was approved to purchase these new products from one of the few authorized retailers such as Texas Original Cultivation.
For starters, the new “one percent THC by weight” limit is beneficial in the tincture and edible forms. In the gummies for instance, each individual gummy contains five milligrams of THC. According to Bass, ten milligram gummies will be arriving soon for patients enrolled in TCUP. In most legal states including right here in Viva Las Vegas, Nevada, a ten milligram serving of THC is the standard edible size allowed per gummy in all dispensaries per many state regulations.
“If chronic pain were one of the qualifying conditions, then I’d be using it for pain.” said Bass. “It’s not but I have pain and I’m a qualified PTSD patient so I am using it for pain. And they work perfectly for PTSD and pain. They’re very effective.”
The ten milligram limit finally allows medically legal products in Texas to stand a chance against a far larger and easier to access market of illicit cannabis products. Texans who qualify can now no longer worry about as much about being prosecuted simply for their medical choices. There’s entire mountains to cross that still stand in the way of Texas having cannabis laws similar to any of her geographical neighbors, but this small step is undoubtedly one in the right direction for medical cannabis in Texas.
As mentioned above, the importance of the addition of PTSD into the TCUP program’s qualifying conditions can’t be understated. Because veterans can now access cannabis and have the transaction and consumption be fully permitted by Texas law, this move opens the medical door to the large number of veterans living in Texas who didn’t want to break the law in receiving their most effective medicine. Statistically, veterans make up an entire eight percent of Texas’ population, so possible medical access increased noticeably for those vets.
Bass has actually been attending the meetings of veteran-focused groups since the expansion was implemented, such as Disabled American Veterans to finally be able to speak about TCUP’s possible benefit for Texas veterans.
“I thought it would open it up to a lot more veterans than had previously qualified,” Bass said, “so I felt comfortable going into my Disabled American Veterans chapter and telling them about Texas Compassionate Use Program and being confident that them knowing it’s legal now and would give them confidence to not be afraid to discuss cannabis or listen to someone discussing cannabis and I was right. They loved the discussion and many of them left saying they’re going to sign up for TCUP.”
The longtime veteran and cannabis advocate certainly agrees that this expansion could lead to further reaching additions for the now slowly burgeoning medical cannabis program in Texas.
“Next Legislative session in 2023, we want to get The Legislature to remove the THC cap and leave it up to the doctors to decide. We want chronic pain added to TCUP because Lt. Governor Patrick took it out.”
Once again, the lieutenant governor has yet to provide any ethical reason why he decided to omit chronic pain from this expansion.
“I’m also going to work hard to get traumatic brain injury to be added as a qualifying condition,” Bass mentioned, “because we have a lot of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are victims of IED blasts and they suffered TBI’s. That shares many of the symptoms of PTSD.”
A major downside of the current program however is the steep financial costs. Bass’ appointments to the doctor able to prescribe the medicine costs $220 for an initial visit and $110 for the follow up appointments to renew prescriptions and the medications themselves for a 30-day supply is $450.
Because of cannabis’ still heavily prohibited status statewide and federally, both insurance and the Veterans Affairs refuse to pay for any of the process. Any costs involving TCUP participation must be paid out of pocket.
As one could tell, Texas still has miles to go to match the medical cannabis programs of literally any of its neighbors. But at least the addition of post-traumatic stress disorder to TCUP will help those who’ve survived the unthinkable and simply want legally safe access to the medicine that most assists them.
Albeit a very costly one.