Although the state’s attempt at launching a medicinal marijuana market is destined to provide limited opportunities for those gunning to get in on the green rush, Texas is reportedly on the verge of hiring pot growers to produce low-THC strains of cannabis oil for hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from epilepsy. However, while the news of this venture sings a sweet tune at face value, the language of the law passed earlier this year will make it difficult, if not impossible, for patients and businesses, alike, to relish in any benefits.
In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law allowing patients suffering from epilepsy to have access to cannabis oil, going a step further than states like Georgia by permitting a cultivation and distribution operation that would allow those suffering from seizures to gain access to effective medicine without traveling out of state. Unfortunately, the law was pushed through with a major flaw to its wording, which forces patients to obtain a “prescription” for cannabis oil as opposed to receiving a “recommendation”—an oversight that will force every doctor in Texas to shy away from medical marijuana.
According to the Controlled Substances Act, “doctors may not ‘prescribe’ marijuana for medical use under federal law, though they can ‘recommend’ its use under the First Amendment.”
This means that some 150,000 epilepsy patients in Texas are out of luck when it comes to getting their family doctor to assist them in getting their hands on cannabis oil—it’s simply not going to happen.
Over two decades ago, Louisiana legalized medical marijuana in this manner, forcing doctors to “prescribe” rather than offer “recommendations.” This choice of words crippled the program, and not a single patient received a prescription for marijuana. It was not until earlier this year when Governor Bobby Jindal signed a new medical marijuana law that the state’s program received any functionality.
Nevertheless, Texas is moving ahead with plans to license companies to work with them in the cultivation of marijuana and the extraction of its oil in order to launch a ghost town of a medical marijuana program before 2017. As of now, reports indicate that the state is in the process of drafting the regulations, which are expected to reach final approval by the end of the year. Once this happens, Texas will begin issuing a series of worthless licenses to cultivators, processors and dispensaries.
Indeed, despite the fact that the state is preparing to embark on a useless medical marijuana program with no hope in the foreseeable future of any physician getting involved, entrepreneurs and other wannabe cannabis moguls are crawling out of the woodwork for an opportunity to capitalize on the market.
According to the Athens Daily Review, some entrepreneurs are prepared to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into growing and selling cannabis oil for Texas, but many have not stopped to consider that those opportunities are going to be virtually non-existent.
Even in states where the language of the medical marijuana law dictates that physicians offer “recommendations” instead of “prescriptions,” many of those medical professionals are staying out of the game for fear that their affiliation with cannabis, a Schedule I controlled substance, will cause them trouble with federal prosecutors, as well as bring up issues with their malpractice insurance.
This is happening right now in New York, with most physicians saying that they will not be providing their patients with recommendations for medical marijuana once the program launches next year.
Therefore, until the Texas State Legislature amends the Compassionate Use Act—or passes a new law using the word “recommend”—it appears that both epilepsy patients and the businesses gunning to sell them cannabis oil are waiting for something that is never going to happen under the current statute.
Even though medical marijuana is technically legal in the State of Texas, there simply is no cannabis industry on the immediate horizon.