In a recent opinion piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, State Rep. Stephanie Klick discusses an issue that Texas is grappling with: easy access to cannabis products for children and the limited availability of medical cannabis for those who need it.
As Rep. Klick pointed out, it’s become a common sight to drive past middle and high schools in Texas and encounter CBD shops or gas stations in close proximity offering products containing what is claimed to be legally acceptable levels of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana responsible for producing a “high.” This situation is no accident, Klick argues; “This is by design. Purveyors of these products see our kids as their best potential customers, even though they endanger their health and put them in grave jeopardy of disciplinary actions, felony charges, enrollment in alternative schools and permanent marks on their record.”
In 2019, Texas legalized hemp, leading to the rapid emergence of a market offering products that simulate the effects of marijuana. These items, often marketed as benign alternatives to marijuana, such as Delta-8, are readily available over the counter in local CBD or vape shops. Disturbingly, Klick argues, many of these products contain higher levels of THC than what’s indicated on their labels, resulting in a high akin to that experienced with marijuana. This poses significant issues for children caught with these products on school campuses.
The legal status of these items remains a subject of debate. However, what is clear is that Texas children are paying the price for the lack of oversight in this market. Klick says, “these substances are falling into the hands and mouths of tiny Texans, toddlers and babies who should never have access to them. The Texas Poison Center Network reports that calls related to marijuana exposure have risen by nearly 7,000 since 2020. In 2022, there were 26,000 calls, with many linked to young children.”
The legality of these products hinges on the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) they contain. Hemp, which is legal, is defined as any product with less than a 0.3% concentration of THC. Anything exceeding this threshold is categorized as marijuana and is only legal in Texas when prescribed for specific medical conditions.
Rep. Klick emphasized the evolving perspective on medical cannabis, which is viewed as a means to enhance healthcare outcomes and improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with chronic illnesses like cancer when administered under medical supervision. In 2015, Texas established the Compassionate Use Program, enabling physicians to prescribe medical-grade cannabis to individuals with a select few chronic diseases and health challenges.
Rep. Klick, based on her experiences, underscored the need for stringent oversight and comprehensive regulations to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis treatments. She has been a staunch advocate for the careful expansion of the Compassionate Use Program.
However, many Texans with chronic health issues do not qualify for a medical cannabis prescription and cannot access the program. Instead, they are turning to an unregulated market of cannabis products, particularly Delta-8 and similar derivatives, with minimal accountability.
Rep. Klick firmly advocates for expanding the Compassionate Use Program to encompass more medical conditions and increasing the supply of medical cannabis. This approach would deter patients with conditions like chronic pain from resorting to self-medication with unregulated, untested products or seeking illegal marijuana on the streets.
Klick argues that, “many Texans with chronic health challenges do not qualify for a prescription yet and cannot access the program. Instead, they are turning to a market of unregulated cannabis products, particularly Delta-8 and similar derivatives, that are available next to no accountability. I am a staunch advocate for approving more medical conditions for compassionate use,” she continues, “and increasing the available supply of medical cannabis if it discourages patients with conditions such as chronic pain from self-medicating with unregulated, untested products or seeking illegal marijuana on the streets.”
Texas faces an imminent public healthcare crisis, demanding immediate action. Rep. Klick asserts that Texas must do a better job overseeing the hemp and Delta-8 market, preventing sellers from operating near schools, and strictly regulating the THC content of these products. She called for the passage of legislation during a special session to restrict Delta-8 products and their sales, along with the expansion of the Compassionate Use Program for Texans with legitimate medical needs.
“By passing legislation during a special session to restrict Delta-8 products and how they are sold, in addition to expanding the Compassionate Use Program for Texans with legitimate medical needs, we can strike a crucial balance between medical innovation and responsible governance. Let us rise to the occasion and protect our children while caring for patients in need,” Klick said.