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UH professors talk marijuana legalization possibilities

Graphic of Texas with an image of marijuana.

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

With the 88th Texas Legislature in progress, a bill that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program has most recently been sent to the Health and Human Services committee.

The bill, HB 1085, would expand the accepted conditions to include chronic pain, while also allowing the Department of State Health Services to decide qualifying conditions as opposed to legislators.

“Each state has its own regulators determining what medical conditions actually qualify to be treated by cannabis,” said neuroscience professor Jokūbas Žiburkus. ”This is also again not being decided by scientists.”

The Texas Compassionate Use Program currently has over 50,000 enrolled patients, but that number is estimated to increase to over 400,000 in 2025, according to Žiburkus.

And if patients with chronic pain were eligible for the program, that number could potentially reach one million patients.

Hemp was removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s controlled substance list in 2018, leaving room for Delta 8 and Delta 9 products to become legal in Texas.

Žiburkus added that while these products cause a high effect, so do other regulated drugs on the market.

“That exists everywhere and with many active molecules that will have both beneficial medicinal effects but also psychotropic or intoxicating effects,” Žiburkus said.

On the legal side, political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus stated that while a majority of voters seem to be in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, there could be a resistance that would prevent it from passing.

He also stated that some are worried about the product being sold on the black market for a cheaper, non-regulated version.

“They’re also worried about young people getting it when they aren’t legally allowed to,” Rottinghaus said. “That’s the kind of normal concerns of the government that’s hesitant to expand. So I think that’s the real holdup so far.”

When it comes to legalizing marijuana, Rottinghaus said it typically comes in phases, starting with some medicinal use and later expanding to full medicinal use.

“It’s unlikely right now that you’re going to see a rush towards legalization of recreational marijuana,” Rottinghaus said. “They may expand medical, that’s something that they’ve been moving towards.”

While Texas seems to be in no rush to legalize marijuana for recreational use, starting with medical use is one of the stair steps required to get there.

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