Medical Marijuana Patients In Texas Worry About Shortage of Registered Doctors
Cannabidiol oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant, will be available by prescription for the first time in Texas early next year.
The 2015 law that set up Texas’ medical marijuana program allowed the state to license three marijuana businesses. So far the state’s approved two. One dispensary near Schulenburg and another, named Compassionate Cultivation, near Manchaca, just south of Austin.
CBD advocates celebrated this week during Compassionate Cultivation’s dedication ceremony, but some of them are worried there aren’t enough Texas physicians willing to prescribe this low-THC cannabis oil as medicine.
You have to take a two-lane country road to get to Compassionate Cultivation’s dispensary. It sits in the back of an industrial park —the last stop past a string of a white aluminum-siding buildings. It’s the type of business you wouldn’t notice unless you were actively searching for it.
Past the front doors, the dispensary’s consultation room resembles a doctor’s waiting room. CEO Morris Denton said, starting in January, patients will be able to find out how their CBD medication works or the strain being recommended by their doctor.
“We’ll have therapists on staff here to help provide counseling to patients as they come in; we’ll have different forms of medication that’s available; we’ll utilize a couple of different strains and couple products per strain to create the right medication that will have the best impact on that patient,” Denton said.
A few security doors away, in back of the building is the Compassionate Cultivation’s grow lab — a series of sanitized rooms, where rows and rows of marijuana plants are grown under controlled lights and fans. This is also where the company extracts CBD oil, the only legal element of the plant in Texas.
Outside, before the dedication ceremony starts, about two dozen people mingle and eat BBQ. They don’t look like who you’d think would show up to celebrate a cannabis business’ opening. Like Terri Carrieker, a mom from Austin.
“About five years ago we became felons in the state of Texas, a conservative Christian mom like me, right? But we had friends that had a relative in a ‘legal state.’ He had a dispense-grow license and he actually made products for us,” Carrieker said.
Carrieker’s 15-year-old daughter Catherine was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy at 3 years old. It is the one condition the state will allow doctors to prescribe CBD oil for.
Carrieker said her daughter can have as many as six to eight seizures in a night. But, when they began giving Catherine illegal cannabis oil brought in from Colorado, she was seizure-free for days.
That was enough to convince Carrieker to add her daughter to the state’s CBD oil registry and find a doctor willing to prescribe it as soon as possible.
WATCH | Tour of Compassionate Cultivation
Dr. Karen Keough is one of those Texas neurologists who treats epilepsy and is willing to prescribe CBD oil to patients.
“I can tell you that if you that if you do 'epilepsy' for a living, the patients are asking you about it every day. Every neurologist is getting this conversation about this every day and they have been for years,” Keough said. “II think everyone has a level of awareness of it, but there’s a different level of comfort with it.”
According to the state, only seven of Texas’s estimated 400 neurologists have signed up as registered CBD oil prescribers.
While CBD oil is legal in Texas, it is not at the federal level because it is derived from the same plant that produces THC, the substance in marijuana that gets you high.
Because of that, Koeugh said many Texas doctors still fear they could lose their federal license to prescribe medications if they prescribe the oil.
“From my perspective the alternative is what happens in other states where the doctors say, ‘You have an eligible condition, now go across the street and ask the guy in the cannabis shop what to take and how to take it.' If no one is after that guy across the street, why would they come after me,” Keough said.
Keough believes more doctors will register with the state once Texas dispensaries start selling the oil in early 2018.
Terri Carrieker is just ecstatic her doctor was willing to make it available for her daughter.
Fighting back tears, Carrieker said, “It’s very emotional to think that finally in our own state, you know — without being able to worry about legal issues — we might be able to give our daughter what she needs.”
The owners of Compassionate Cultivation estimate they will produce their first batch of oil from the marijuana plants they’re growing in either January or early February.