Texas is known for its strict marijuana laws— even when it comes to medical marijuana.
This legislative session, lawmakers passed a new law that increased the number of qualifying patient conditions for medical cannabis use. The qualifying conditions include: ALS, MS, Seizure Disorders, Parkinsons Disease, Terminal Cancer, Autism.
The program allows 0.5 percent THC in its marijuana. Some marijuana advocates say it's not enough—which causes many Texans seeking medical marijuana to find options elsewhere.
“We see families leave Texas every single day,” Natamoto said. “We call them medical refugees."
In the next two weeks a New Mexico judge will decide whether the language of its new state law allows out of state residents to be part of its medical marijuana program.
When the law was updated earlier this year the wording of who qualifies as a patient changed.
The law used to state “residents of New Mexico." The new law passed states “qualified patients" includes anyone who has been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and received written certification and a registration card.
Although the New Mexico Department of Health argues it is not required to issue patient cards to out-of-state residents, Ultra Health CEO Duke Rodriguez believes that residents across state lines should be able to participate in the program. So he has taken the matter to court.
“So all of a sudden you've got potentially 29 million Texans who can look to New Mexico to enter the program,” Rodriguez said.
Texas Senator Jose Menendez, who represents District 26, was one of the co-sponsors for the recent medical marijuana expansion bill, HB 3703.
He says he hopes Texas can be influenced by New Mexico to speed up expanding its program but that there are always speed bumps.
“It should make it more likely that it will, but it's not going to be an automatic,” Menendez said. “They have casinos in Oklahoma and other places where Texas doesn't gamble. It all depends on who is in the legislature.”
In the meantime, he hopes the New Mexico judge holds up the decision to allow out of state residents to use the state's medical marijuana program—so Texans can have more options.
“It's very disappointing,” Menendez said. “People feel like they are criminals or feel like they have to go to another state and come back—and run a risk.”
Governor Greg Abbott has always remained firm on his stance on legalizing marijuana in Texas or massively expanding the medical marijuana program.
According to the Texas Tribune, he has said that expanding the medical marijuana program could open the door to an increase in conventional marijuana usage.