Those entrepreneurs hoping to sell cannabis oil in Texas may have to dig a lot deeper inside their respective piggy banks before the state will allow them to get in on the action.
A report from NPR’s Morning Edition revealed on Monday that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is considering raising the cost of the state’s medical marijuana licensing fee from $6,000 to a whopping $1.3 million. The rate increase would apply to every cultivation operation and dispensary interested in participating in the state’s low-THC cannabis trade.
The Public Safety Commission originally drafted a set of rules that would have made a buy-in for the state’s restrictive cannabis trade a modest investment of $6,000—allowing a number of companies to take advantage of the new market. But the commission has since restricted the number of businesses that will be permitted to deal in cannabis oil, forcing about the need for a $1.3 million licensing fee, the agency said.
Marijuana advocates are concerned that such a drastic rate increase will have detrimental impact on those patients hoping to benefit from the program. Heather Fazio of the Marijuana Policy Project told CBS News that she is worried about the medicine becoming unaffordable and therefore providing limited access to those patients in need.
“The costs are much higher than they expected because they’ve created this unreasonably restrictive market and that there are only a few patients that would have access to that medicine,” she said.
In 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a flimsy piece of legislation called the “Compassionate Use Act,” giving patients with epilepsy the freedom to purchase low-THC cannabis oil from local dispensaries. However, the bill was drafted using language that makes it impossible for any patient to gain access to cannabis oil because it forces doctors to “prescribe” the herb rather than provide patients with a recommendation.
Since anything derived from the cannabis plant is illegal under federal law, doctors are prohibited from writing prescriptions for marijuana, but recommendations are protected under the Fist Amendment.
In January, Fazio told HIGH TIMES that she was optimistic that the Texas Legislature would amend the law when it reconvenes at the beginning of 2017—making the program functional before the DPS finalizes the rules in the summer. Yet, the latest proposal, at least at this point, is almost certain to further hinder the market from reaching any real potential.
But lawmakers are expected to push an expansion to the state’s medical marijuana law in 2017.
For now, marijuana businesses interested in getting involved with the Texas cannabis industry have until the end of November to voice their opinions on the latest proposal. The Public Safety Commission will then take up a final vote on the issue.