By the beginning of this year, more than 30 states had legalized some form of cannabis use, mostly for medical purposes. But Texas has been slow to embrace the change. And companies looking to obtain a license to lawfully sell medical marijuana in the state find the process particularly challenging.
The 2015 Compassionate Use Act mandated that the Department of Public Safety, or DPS, grant at least three licenses to companies that apply for them, and exactly three licenses have been granted since the act’s passage. That’s despite 43 businesses applying for licenses in 2017. And last week, DPS stopped taking applications halfway through the acceptance period.
Heather Fazio is director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. She says the claim by DPS that there isn’t a market for an increased number of licenses is correct.
“The state legislature restricts access very strictly to this medicine, only allowing very few patients to access it,” Fazio says. “The three companies could very well serve those patients.”
But she says the decision to cut off license applications in the middle of the designated time period is a problem. Fazio says she believes those responsible for the licensing program at DPS want to make the Compassionate Use Act work, but she suspects some state leaders could be making that hard for them.
“I believe this came from the top down, from leadership in this state who do not want to see this program expanded,” Fazio says.
In Texas, medical cannabis products can contain up to .5% THC – the substance in marijuana that gets a person high. DPS is charged with determining whether THC levels are below the limit. She says that’s not much more THC than what’s found in legal, over-the-counter hemp products.
“That change makes this program largely irrelevant,” Fazio says.
Fazio says the state should allow more companies into the market and reduce licensing fees.
“While it may not make economic sense for any of those businesses, if they’re expecting a quick turnaround, there is opportunity,” she says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.