Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jul 2016
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2016 Austin American-Statesman
Note: Letters MUST be 150 words or less
Author: Tim Eaton


Legislators who want to expand the use of medical marijuana in Texas 
- - as well as the green-seeking entrepreneurs who could benefit 
financially from more state-approved, pot-derived treatments for what 
ails Texans - might be able to lean on a new study to bolster their 
argument when the Legislature convenes in January.

State senators and Texas House members undoubtedly will be looking 
for ways to save money next session, especially since the price of 
oil has dropped into an abyss, taking with it much of the state's 
oil-based tax revenue. They'll cut programs. They always do. But they 
also will search for savings.

And when that time comes, lawmakers who are open to the idea of 
medical marijuana might want to look to the conclusions reached by 
Ashley Bradford and W. David Bradford, a student-and-professor team 
at the University of Georgia.

The Athens, Ga.-based duo found that places that allow medical 
marijuana have witnessed reductions in public money spent on 
prescribed drugs under Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit 
that's paid for with state and federal dollars.

"Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees 
from 2010 to 2013, we found that the use of prescription drugs for 
which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell 
significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented," the 
Bradfords wrote.

The study authors say that if all states - not just the 24 states and 
the District of Columbia that already permit pot-based medicine - had 
allowed medical marijuana in 2013, then total spending on Medicare 
Part D would have been $468.1 million less, than if no states had 
adopted such laws.

They also concluded - and this is the part that would help the 
pro-medical marijuana voices in the Legislature - that "more 
widespread approval could provide modest budgetary relief."

Sen. Kevin Eltife, who successfully piloted a bill through the 
process last session to allow for a marijuana-derived treatment for a 
rare form of epilepsy, said the new study could prove helpful next 
session for politicians looking to go beyond his measure.

"I don't know how you ignore it," he said.

The study represents just one justification for broadening medical 
marijuana in Texas.

Proponents also can cite the recently adopted policy platform by the 
Republican Party of Texas. The new GOP position calls for expanding 
the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine "the 
appropriate use of cannabis to prescribed patients."

With shifting attitudes, pot proponents in the Legislature now enjoy 
support from the conservative base and an academic study 
demonstrating cost-savings from a state-sanctioned medical marijuana policy.

"That's a pretty strong combination," Eltife said.

Perhaps, it will be enough to persuade lawmakers to vote for such 
legislation and ignore the increasingly diminishing voices opposed to 
any movement toward legalizing marijuana.

Also, the study notes, the spending in public prescription drug 
programs could be shifted to private companies that will be legally 
allowed to sell marijuana-based medical products.

All of a sudden, it's a pro-business stance, too.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom