Medical Marijuana Use Growing in Texas, Commission Considers Program Expansion

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas DPS Public Safety Commission took action Thursday to expand its compassionate use program so it can accommodate a growing number of Texas patients who want access to medical marijuana.

The Compassionate Use Act was originally passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Greg Abbott in 2015 to allow doctors to prescribe THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) products to epilepsy patients. The original bill has since been expanded to allow patients with other medical conditions — such as post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer — to participate in the medical marijuana program.

“Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen a significant increase in patient growth within the program, roughly averaging about 10 percent growth on a monthly basis,” said Superintendent Wayne Mueller of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In the next 18 to 24 months, there will likely be 100,000 patients in Texas using medical marijuana, Mueller said.

But as the number of patients increases, there are still only three licensed cannabis providers in the state, according to reports the Austin Business Journal. By comparison, while Florida has significantly more patients enrolled in its medical marijuana program (they have over 700,000 patients), it has 22 different dispensing organizations, Mueller said.

To handle the growing number of patients, the Public Safety Commission agreed to hire a consultant who could help them grow as a program and secure more licensees who can distribute medical marijuana to patients.

“While we’re at this nascent stage with this program, I think bringing in a person or entity that has experience with other state programs that have been at the same point (at some point) will give us some vital insights so that we are without trying to reinvent the wheel,” Muller said.

In addition, commissioners also adopted a task force that could help facilitate any changes the Texas Legislature may want the program to make next session. They also approved a resolution allowing the current three licensees to open satellite locations across the state so patients can easily access THC and CBD products.

Currently, 34 states allow some patients to access medical marijuana to treat various conditions, according to the Veterans Affairs Cannabis Project.

“Our message is simple: medical cannabis saves lives and veterans deserve full legal access,” the organization writes on its website.

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