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Restrictive Texas Cannabis Regulations Fail Medical Marijuana Patients

Texas Governor Gregg Abbot (R) signed a medical marijuana bill into law, but his states inflexible stance on medical cannabis has put a serious damper on the hopes of patients seeking safe access.
PHOTO Phil Roeder


Restrictive Texas Cannabis Regulations Fail Medical Marijuana Patients

Cautious optimism has given way to shock and devastation as Texas doubles down on a restrictive “Medical Cannabis” program that doesn’t really provide safe access to medical cannabis.

Texas is one of the nation’s most reliably Republican states, but as the success of legalization in Arkansas and North Dakota proved last week, even Trump country can be marijuana country.

Last summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed his state’s own Compassionate Use Act into law. But since that law only permits the use of low-THC oil — and forbids the cannabis dispensaries integral to patient access in California, Colorado and even New York City — it isn’t counted among the 28 states that have decriminalized medical cannabis.

As it turns out, Texas may not really provide any low-THC cannabis oil to the people who need it anyway.

And last month, when the Texas state Legislature’s Public Safety Commission published the preliminary regulations for the state’s medical cannabis program, the prohibitively narrow scope of access it laid out did not bode well for patients seeking safe access.

There will be no more than twelve dispensaries in the entire state of Texas – a state primarily known for how big it (and everything in it) is.

To put it in perspective: the city of Los Angeles, California, which has a population of just under 4 million, has roughly 130 legally licensed cannabis dispensaries. The state of Texas contains about 27 million people and will have, at most, twelve.

These twelve dispensaries will have to pay a $6,000 annual licensing fee and will be strictly limited to producing and distributing only low-THC oil.

According to a report by the Austin Chronicle, all these restrictions make medical cannabis in Texas more of an idea than a reality.

State cannabis policy experts — like Heather Fazio, the state director for the Marijuana Policy Project — say those high licensing fees will all be passed onto patients.

Terri Carriker, whose 14-year-old daughter Catherine suffers from serious epilepsy, told the Chronicle that the rules are “restrictive and unreasonable” and will result in no access at all.

“The thought of having access to a safe, consistent product here legally, in state, it makes me want to cry to think about it even now – it’s pretty overwhelming,” Carriker said. “I found it pretty shocking and a little devastating to think that’s going to be pulled out from under us. It’s unconscionable, really.”

Remember: Low-THC cannabis oil is not a party drug. Whether it’s derived from hemp or from cannabis, CBD-rich, THC-deficient oil is an increasingly popular tonic for sufferers of epilepsy and other serious illnesses who want healing without a high.

You’d think this would be an easy sell, even in conservative Texas.

But Texas state health officials say these fees are necessary because “monitoring” the dispensaries will require $600,000 a year, a cost required for “security and safety concerns.”

That’s the bit that really outrages Carriker. Who, she asks, is going to rip off a bunch of low-THC cannabis oil?

Ironically, under this restrictive system, the answer to her question could ultimately be another desperate parent — one so tired of watching bureaucrats frustrate access to the remedy for their child’s suffering that they take matters into their own hands.

TELL US, what do you think of the medical cannabis program in Texas?

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