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Expanded medical marijuana access has officially gone into effect in Texas. Here's who now benefits.

The 2015 medical cannabis law initially was intended for people with epilepsy. Since then, several other conditions have been added to eligibility list.

SAN ANTONIO — Texans living with cancer and PTSD are now eligible to be prescribed medical marijuana after the bill lawmakers passed this year went into effect Wednesday.

The new law expands access based on the state’s 2015-approved medical cannabis program.

The low-THC cannabis limit has also been increased from 0.5% to 1% as part of the new law.

San Antonio attorney Joe Hoelscher, who is versed in marijuana law, noted Texas is catching up with other states.

“We’re less progressive than, say, Oklahoma and Utah, but this expansion is starting to put us in line more with other states,” Hoelscher said.

And, the methods of accessing medical marijuana in the Lone Star State are evolving.

“National ethics rules have been very restrictive about prescribing cannabis because it’s not FDA-approved. Most states allow physicians to recommend it," Hoelscher said. "However, there are doctors in Texas who will prescribe it." 

“Hopefully, we can see those patient numbers increase," added Jax Finkel, executive director for the Texas chapter of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Law. "There are just about 7,500 patients in the program right now with just under 400 doctors being enrolled to prescribe this medication."

Finkel said telemedicine during the pandemic has made it more convenient for people to enroll in the state’s Compassionate Use Program.

“They’re no longer restricted to 'Well, there’s no doctor for (a) five or six-hour drive, so I don’t have the option.' Now they can have those online appointments,” Finkel said.

Brick-and-mortar dispensaries are limited across Texas, which is why companies provide delivery services.

As for the cost of cannabis, Finkel said price varies.

“As of right now, people will be paying out of pocket for their doctor's fees and also for their medication,” Finkel said.

He said he believes there’s still much room for improvement when it comes to Texas’s medical marijuana laws. She supports allowing patients and doctors to decide which health conditions would benefit from cannabis instead of waiting for lawmakers.

“Because patients then have to wait two years to gain access, and with some of these debilitating conditions, that literally could mean life or death,” Finkel said.

To learn more about Texas's medical cannabis program click here.