Texas Medical Marijuana: “Incurable Neurodegenerative Disease"

Author: Andrea Steel
There is still time to submit written comments to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to designate “Incurable Neurodegenerative Diseases” which will qualify for medical marijuana in Texas.
The 2019 Texas Legislature, through H.B. 3703, expanded the number of medical conditions that would qualify a patient to receive medical marijuana (MMJ) in Texas. The Texas MMJ program is very limited – the THC content cannot exceed 0.5% and, until very recently, was only available for patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy (with such diagnosis requiring concurrence from a second qualified doctor).
H.B. 3703 removed “intractable” from the epilepsy requirement, removed the concurring doctor requirement, and added the following qualifying conditions (in addition to epilepsy):
1. a seizure disorder
2. multiple sclerosis
3. spasticity
4. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
5. autism
6. terminal cancer
7. an incurable neurodegenerative disease
The statute designated the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission, in consultation with the National Institutes of Health, to designate which diseases would qualify as “incurable neurodegenerative disease[s],” with such designations to be determined through a rule-making process. That rule-making process is currently underway.
The Department of State Health Services published a lengthy draft list of designated diseases and held a public hearing on September 11, 2019 (which can be viewed here, courtesy of Texas Health and Human Services).  There were few public comments, and the hearing only lasted about fifteen minutes. Following that hearing, no changes were made to the draft and that same proposed list was published in the Texas Register on September 27, 2019, initiating a 31-day public notification and comment period.
Fortunately, the proposed rule would allow some flexibility for a doctor to request a particular disease be added if that doctor is treating a patient that suffers from an incurable neurodegenerative disease not listed, although it is not clear what would happen after such a request is made.
Written comments are being accepted prior to midnight on Monday, October 28, 2019 via email at HHSRulesCoordinationOffice@hhsc.state.tx.us(please indicate “Comments on Proposed Rule 19R060” in the subject line). Please refer to the Texas Register for detailed instructions on how to mail or hand deliver comments or for further information.

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