Texas is expected Monday to loosen restrictions on a marijuana-related product for the first time in state hostory. Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday that he will sign a bill that would legalize cannabis oil as a treatment for epilepsy, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The announcement came in the evening, with a signing ceremony planned for Monday afternoon.
The legalization will have a very narrow scope. The legislation, Senate Bill 339, does not legalize marijuana for recreation or medical use -- but rather specifies the single use of cannabis oil. Sponsored by Rep. Sen. Kevin Eltife and Rep. Stephanie Klick, the bill previously passed through both legislative chambers last month after emotional testimony from the parents of children with epilepsy.
The marijuana-derived cannabis oil has very little tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in pot. The dosage of THC is so low it does not produce the "high" associated with marijuana, KSAT in San Antonio reported. Those who suffer from persistent and chronic seizures would have access to the product. Fourteen other states already have some sort of low-dose cannabis oil laws, KSAT reported. Support for the bill from marijuana advocates had previously been lackluster because of its wording -- which could perhaps cause limitations in actually prescribing the oil -- but it had also been hailed as a first step in in a long legalization process.
The bill calls for the Texas Department of Public Safety to create rules for obtaining and distributing the oil to select nonprofits that will be allowed to carry out the distribution, WOAI in San Antonio reported. The news radio station reported that 150,000 Texans suffer from intractable epilepsy and could perhaps benefit from the bill's signing.
The high-profile signing planned by Gov. Abbott for Monday is reportedly a deliberate choice. The Express-News reported that the public signings are relatively rare, and Abbott made the choice to increase the exposure of the bill.