Texas Medical Cannabis: What Physicians Need to Know About the Compassionate Use Act

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The Compassionate Use Act (SB 339) allows qualified physicians to prescribe low-THC cannabis to certain patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. Here are some important FAQs physicians should know about the medical cannabis program, which is slated to become operational in early 2018.

Which conditions qualify for medical cannabis?

The only condition that qualifies for low-THC medical cannabis under the Compassionate Use Act is intractable epilepsy, defined by law as a seizure disorder “in which the patient’s seizures have been treated by two or more appropriately chosen and maximally titrated antiepileptic drugs that have failed to control the seizures.”

Can any physician prescribe medical marijuana?

Physicians are required to register with the Department of Public Safety under the Compassionate Use Program (CUP) before prescribing medical cannabis oil. Qualifying physicians must specialize in the field of examining, diagnosing and treating epilepsy.

Physicians will only qualify for registration if they are certified in epilepsy, neurology, or neurology with special qualifications in child neurology by the American Board of Neurophysiology or the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology; or are otherwise qualified to examine and diagnose epilepsy.

If a physician’s registration is denied, they can contact the Regulatory Services Division for further explanation.

What is the process for diagnosing and registering a patient?

Once a qualified physician has examined and diagnosed a patient with intractable epilepsy, they must determine that the potential risks associated with low-THC cannabis are worth the potential benefits for the patient. Doctors must also register their diagnosis and treatment plans with the Department of Public Safety.

What does a medical marijuana treatment plan entail?

Treatment plans must include information about patient dosage, ingestion method, planned duration of treatment, means for monitoring the patient’s symptoms and a plan for monitoring the patient’s tolerance or reaction to low-THC cannabis.

Smoking is not an approved ingestion method for cannabis. When crafting treatment plans, physicians must prescribe a method other than smoking, including tinctures and other products made from cannabis oil.

A second CUP-registered physician must concur with the initial diagnosis and treatment plan before the patient or their legal guardian can fill a medical cannabis prescription. The original physician must register as the prescriber for each cannabis patient.

What is the Compassionate Use Registry?

CUP-registered physicians must provide all medical cannabis patient information to the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT), a secure online database maintained by the Department of Public Safety. This database tracks information like a patient’s name, date of birth, prescribed dosage, ingestion method and certain cannabis dispensary purchasing records.

The Compassionate Use Registry helps enforce patient purchasing limits and allows law enforcement to identify individuals that are legally allowed to purchase and possess medical marijuana in Texas.


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