UNDER THE ROTUNDA
A panel of the House Public Health Committee created to focus on the medical use of marijuana met today, with a full agenda of 10 bills.
Although the Texas Medical Association supports adequate and well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids for potential medical uses, TMA policy in no way endorses the legalization of recreational marijuana usage.
The bills up for consideration today run the gamut from an affirmative defense to prosecution and a vast expansion of diagnoses eligible for treatment with these substances.
House Bill 122 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) says no agency or law enforcement may take action against a physician who discusses marijuana as a treatment option with a patient, or against a physician who makes a statement that, in the physician’s professional opinion, the potential benefits of marijuana use likely outweigh the health risks for the patient.
House Bill 1365 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) would allow a physician to recommend low-THC cannabis for medical use by a patient with a debilitating medical condition, provided the physician has the proper medical knowledge concerning medical use of the product as treatment for the patient’s specific condition. The physician must also maintain treatment and monitoring plans.
TMA continues to recommend to lawmakers that the federal government should reclassify marijuana as something other than a Schedule I drug, so it can be properly accessed for research. Reclassification also would allow physicians to freely exchange information with patients on the effects and use of marijuana and its derivatives, as well as other unapproved complementary therapies.
Some state specialty societies are pushing to remove current restrictions in state law that allow physicians to recommend low-THC cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) only for specific diseases. Right now, only patients with intractable epilepsy are eligible for CBD use. Physicians must be able to have unfettered conversations with their patients, to fully understand patient concerns and what medicines and supplemental treatments patients are already taking.
All 10 bills were left pending in the subcommittee. TMA will continue to monitor these bills and the topic in general.
BILLS THAT ARE MOVING
Today, House Bill 1065 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) – which would create a grant program to develop residency training tracks to prepare physicians for practice in rural, underserved settings – received preliminary approval on the House floor. TMA testified in support of this bill in early March.
Yesterday, House Bill 1256 by Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) – which would give first responders or their employers access to vaccination records stored in the state’s immunization registry during an emergency – received preliminary approval in the House and awaits a final House vote. TMA strongly supports this bill and testified for it last month.
Also yesterday, Senate Bill 436 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which directs the Department of State Health Services to develop and implement initiatives to assist pregnant and postpartum women with opioid use disorder and newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, passed the Senate without opposition. It now heads to the House. This bill is specifically referring to the TexasAIM Opioid Bundle that evolved out of the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force and is strongly supported by TMA.
GETTING A BILL MOVING
So far this session, lawmakers have filed 7,693 bills. TMA is monitoring 1,940 of them. Bills must be voted out of committee before they can be heard on the floor and voted on by the full body. Then the process repeats in the other chamber. Bills in the House must be out of committee by May 6 to be considered by the Senate this session. Six and a half weeks remain until sine die.
BILLS OF NOTE
Here are some bills TMA is watching. Keep an eye on your email inbox for Action Alerts as we work to pass or kill bills.
- Senate Bill 2132 by Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Burleson) would direct the Health and Human Service Commission to give information on the Healthy Texas Women program to women who are losing Medicaid eligibility after delivery or miscarriage. SB 2132 received uncontested Senate approval yesterday and awaits committee referral in the House. TMA supports this bill.
- Senate Bill 384 by Senator Nelson would require all health care facilities to report all health care-associated infections, not just surgical site infections. SB 384 passed the Senate yesterday without dissent and heads to the House. TMA supports this bill.
HEALTHY VISION 2025
Healthy Vision 2025 – released in late January – is TMA’s all-inclusive, health care roadmap for legislators.
Want to help spread and promote TMA’s Healthy Vision for Texas? Become a TMA social media ambassador.
TODAY’S GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY TIP
Just as patients need to receive the appropriate care at the appropriate time, communication with your legislator must be timely. Make sure you’ve organized your thoughts and arguments – on only one topic per letter – and sent it in advance of committee or floor debates. Your odds of having an impact are greater if you contact your legislator before their mind is made up. Get more tips in our Grassroots Advocacy Guide.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
Today’s physician of the day is Marian Allen, MD, of Spring. Dr. Allen graduated from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and is a member of both TMA and the Harris County Medical Society.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Texas Tech Medical School, Under Pressure From Education Dept., Will Stop Using Race in Admissions – The New York Times
Texas could soon increase the legal age to buy tobacco, though active military members might be exempt – The Texas Tribune
US warns docs not to abruptly halt opioid pain treatment – The Washington Post
Doctors urge vaccination to prevent whooping cough outbreak – KVUE-TV
Surgeons, hospital owner convicted in massive kickback scheme involving Forest Park Medical Center – The Dallas Morning News
New York City Is Requiring Vaccinations Against Measles. Can Officials Do That? – The New York Times
One in four Texas women are uninsured – Reform Austin