It has been three years since Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law, giving patients the ability to purchase a non-intoxicating strain of cannabis oil. The law, which is designed for epilepsy patients, allowed a few cannabis farmers to start growing the plants needed to extract this medicine in May of 2017. Still, the people qualifying for participation in this program have been left wondering when will CBD oil be available? Well, with the news that Texas makes first cannabis harvest, we know that the wait is almost over.
Earlier last week, Texas’ first medical marijuana company reportedly harvested its initial crop. This brings the dispensary one step closer to marketing its product to those with permission to make cannabis oil a part of their overall treatment program.
The process, which takes four months to complete from seed to sale, will now enter the extraction phase. From there, the cannabis oil known as “Charlotte’s Web” will be packaged for distribution.
“It’s a historic day for us, for Texas, for Texans, for those people that have been long waiting for this medicine,” Compassionate Cultivation CEO Morris Denton told the Houston Press. “We’re dedicated to creating the highest quality, consistent medicine and to be transparent in how we operate our business and to run our business with integrity. We want to do nothing except make Texans proud,” he added.
Texas Was Least Likely to Legalize
Although nationwide support for marijuana legalization has been at an all-time high for the past couple of years—consistently residing above the 60 percent range—Texas is perhaps one of the last states predicted to move forward with a medical marijuana program.
Governor Abbott, who surprised advocates when signaling his support on this issue back in 2015, is not exactly a fan of this reform. In fact, he has vowed to veto any other marijuana bill that lands on his desk from here on out. Nevertheless, Abbott believes marijuana has medicinal benefit. He said during the signing of the state’s CBD bill, “we have seen promising results from CBD oil testing… and there is now hope for thousands of families who deal with the effects of intractable epilepsy every day.”
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, around 150,000 Texans qualify for the medical marijuana program. But there are concerns that the restrictive nature of the program will leave thousands more without access to effective medicine. Lawmakers were hoping to expand the reach of the Compassionate Use Act, but those attempts were stomped out soon after their introductions. The State Legislature doesn’t gather again until 2019 – putting all hopes for a more comprehensive program on hold for another year.
Will Language Snag Prevent Patients From Gaining Access?
Just because there are more than a hundred thousand people who qualify for access to CBD oil, doesn’t mean they will be able to purchase this medicine with ease. The language of the law was written in such a way that could make doctors nervous about discussing this alternative treatment to patients.
For starters, the law only grants permission for the use of CBD oil to those epilepsy patients who have been unsuccessful with at least two different pharmaceutical drugs. At that point, a doctor may suggest cannabis oil. Whether they will remains to be seen. That’s because the language of the law forces physicians to “prescribe” marijuana rather than offer a “recommendation.” The DEA’s Controlled Substances Act explicitly forbids medical professionals from prescribing any Schedule I drug. Doing so could result in legal consequences, including loss of medical licenses.
Cannabis advocates hoped to get a language tweak during the 2017 session, but that did not happen. Now, no amendment is possible until early next year. This could make it difficult for patients to track down a doctor willing to risk their careers and livelihoods just to dole out prescriptions for cannabis oil. We’re not saying it is going to be impossible, just a little complicated.
In states where this sort of thing has happened in the past, the program was crippled indefinitely. So, depending on how the new law shakes out when it comes to overall functionality, we expect the state legislature will have no choice but to get serious about making the necessary adjustments when it returns to work in 2019.
Final Hit: Texas Makes First Cannabis Harvest
Despite the language issues, the cannabis industry is still excited about the idea of selling CBD oil to Texans. The folks at Compassionate Cultivation say that patients have already been stopping by their facility to discuss how this medicine might be able to improve their quality of life. The company hopes to begin selling its first batch of oil in February. It also plans to provide a delivery service for those patients who cannot make it into the dispensary.