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In recent years, laws concerning cannabis have changed significantly across the United States. While Texas historically has had some of the most stringent cannabis-related laws, things have been changing in the state. One of the more recent changes to the law came in 2015, when the Texas Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 339) legalizing some types of cannabis referred to as medical marijuana, was passed and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. Since that time, the act has been reviewed many times to clarify language and update the law according to new findings from research related to cannabis as a medical treatment.

The original Texas Compassionate Use Act allowed the legal use of low-THC (≤0.5%) cannabis products by patients who are residents of the state of Texas and are diagnosed with the incurable medical condition known as intractable epilepsy. The act required that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) create and oversee a secure registry of qualified physicians who treat patients with the condition and recommend cannabis to help them; this registry is called the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas, or the CURT system. The act also required that the state designate three “dispensing organizations” to distribute the recommended product in the dosage suggested by the registered physicians; these dispensaries were to be regulated by the DPS for the cultivation, processing, and distribution of any cannabis products. (Note: while there are many states that recognize cannabis as a medical treatment, the federal government still designates it as an illegal controlled substance. As such, it would be illegal for any physician in Texas to write a prescription for cannabis. It is not illegal, however, for physicians registered with CURT to write recommendations to be filled at authorized dispensaries.)

The Texas Compassionate Use Act opened the door for the creation of a Texas Department of Public Safety regulated program, the Texas Compassionate Use Program. This program has expanded since the original act was passed. As of 2019, the Texas Compassionate Use Program, or T. CUP for short, saw an increase in the number of qualifying medical conditions for which low-THC cannabis may be prescribed as part of a medical treatment plan; these conditions include only incurable neurodegenerative diseases. Also, the CURT system underwent modifications streamlining the process for doctors to apply for registration as qualified physicians and providing an update to the physician search tool (House Bill 3703).

People might be leery of participating in the T. CUP because the legality of cannabis is confusing, and the ramifications of possession and use are worrisome. But as far as law enforcement is concerned, patients (or their legal guardians if they are minors) are protected from criminal prosecution under the Texas Health and Safety Code. That is, participants in the T. CUP are exempted from state laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis, as long as they have been treated by a CURT-registered physician and have acquired the product from a licensed dispensary.

In Texas, cannabis-related offenses result in serious penalties. Contact the attorneys at Austin-based Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law to discuss your case involving any drug charges, but especially if your right to possess and use medical marijuana is under fire. The experienced team will provide a free consultation to hear your story and share how they will fight for you.