Texas is weeks from the opening of CBD dispensaries many thought would never appear in the deep-red state.
But it’s far from certain whether Texas’ highly restrictive CBD law will translate into patients getting access to Texas-grown cannabidiol.
Patients can use CBD for epilepsy only if two traditional drugs have failed. They also must jump through regulatory hoops.
In addition, Texas allows just three dispensaries in the nation’s second-most populous state, with 28 million residents. And there’s a dearth of participating doctors.
“I hope Texas has figured it out, because there are a lot of people in this state who want access to this medicine,” said Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation, one of the state’s three licensed dispensaries.
Here’s what Texas’ cannabis program looks like so far:
- CBD may be used only for intractable epilepsy.
- The CBD can be derived from hemp or marijuana, provided the end product contains at least 10% CBD and no more than 0.5% THC.
- Patients can’t buy raw flower or smokable concentrate, only edible oils.
- Sign-off is required from two neurologists or doctors who specialize in epilepsy treatment, known as epileptologists. Only seven doctors are participating in Texas’ program.
- Retailers must be vertically integrated – growing and processing their own cannabis. The cannabis must be grown indoors and adjacent to the dispensary.
- Retailers will be allowed to deliver oils to qualifying patients.
One of the dispensaries, Cansortium Texas, has said it plans to be open by the end of the year in Schulenburg, about halfway between Houston and San Antonio.
Compassionate Cultivation is aiming for a January opening near Austin, and Surterra Texas hasn’t announced when it is opening.
Big question mark
So will patients be flocking to Texas’ dispensaries when they open? It’s unclear, because there are no solid estimates for the state’s potential patient pool.
“That is the giant question: How many patients are going to come online?” Denton said. “I don’t know the answer to that. We can only guess.”
Critics say Texas’ CBD program is doomed because of the high hurdle patients face and the three-dispensary limit.
The co-founder of the Texas Cannabis Industry Association, Patrick Moran, calls Texas’ CBD law “incredibly limited and increasingly flawed.”
Moran failed to win one of the three dispensary licenses for a grow north of Dallas.
“Honestly, we’re at a little bit of a loss as to how this is going to go,” Moran said. “The three business with licenses, God bless them, we hope that they’re successful. But the way the law is written, we don’t think it’s going to work.”
Moran is holding out hope that Texas will expand its CBD program in 2019, when state lawmakers return to work and can see how the limited CBD program is working.
Right now, he says, Texas politicians are skeptical of anyone working in cannabis.
“They think we’re running a scam, that we’re all stoners,” Moran said.
Denton shares Moran’s hope that a year of limited CBD sales will change minds in Texas about cannabis’ potential.
“This is just the start of Texas,” Denton said.
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