Pubdate: Mon, 15 Aug 2016
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2016 The Dallas Morning News, Inc.
Author: Liz Farmer


Businessman Has N. Texas Town in Sights for Facility to Produce Oil 
to Treat Epilepsy

GUNTER - A cotton gin that sat empty for decades in this small North 
Texas town could be filled next year with the first cannabis plants 
legally grown in the state. Jae S. Lee/Staff Photographer Patrick 
Moran, president and co-founder of the Texas Cannabis Industry 
Association, aims to plant Texas' first legal cannabis plants in 
Gunter. A statute enacted last year paves the way for cultivation of 
non-psychoactive cannabis to produce CBD oil for treating people with 
severe epilepsy.

The man investing in the old buildings plans to open a greenhouse and 
processing facility to make cannabis oil as a medical treatment for 
people with severe epilepsy. A Texas statute enacted in 2015 paves 
the way for the cultivation of non-psychoactive cannabis for that 
purpose. It was the only marijuana-related bill approved in the last 
legislative session.

Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis, and until 2015, it was illegal 
to grow either in Texas, though hemp products from elsewhere could be 
imported into the state and sold here. In oversimplified terms, 
plants with higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the 
component that gets people high, are considered marijuana.

The cannabis product approved under the Texas Compassionate Use Act 
will be developed from a plant engineered to have extremely low 
levels of THC. Instead, it will be rich in cannabidiol, or CBD, a 
non-psychoactive chemical that could help reduce seizures in some 
people. Patients must obtain a doctor's prescription for cannabis 
oil. The businessman who could put the first legal cannabis plants in 
the ground in Gunter is Patrick Moran, an Amarillo native and the 
president and co-founder of the Texas Cannabis Industry Association.

Moran, 45, zigzagged across North Texas one weekend in search of a 
cotton gin to house his CBD production facility.

He said he wanted to tie Texas' agricultural past to what he sees as 
its future - cannabis.

"As we move forward in history, it's going to become more and more 
important to our economy," he said.

'Gunner' connection

Moran found what he was looking for in Gunter - pronounced "Gunner" 
by locals - a town of 1,500 that's roughly 60 miles north of Dallas, 
in Grayson County.

His next step was to get in touch with the mayor, Tim Slattery. A 
self-proclaimed "country boy" who moved to Gunter in 2008, Slattery 
trains dogs for special operations. He's been deployed to Afghanistan 
and Southeast Asia as a private military contractor.

Slattery's a burly man with a booming voice and big, tattoo-covered 
arms. He often tucks a pinch of dip into his bottom lip.

He didn't think much of it when, at the end of January, he got an 
email from a guy named Moran who wanted to set up a business meeting 
- - no specifics.

When they met, Moran launched into his spiel about cannabis and the cotton gin.

"He's very full of energy and passion, and you're sitting here and he 
kind of draws you in," Slattery said.

The mayor wasn't familiar with CBD oil. But he knew what cannabis 
was, and he certainly wouldn't be OK with a head shop in Gunter. So 
he educated himself. "Because I knew ... once word got out that there 
would be a miscommunication because of lack of knowledge - the 
difference between CBD oil and recreational marijuana," Slattery said.

"You could harvest the whole lot and smoke it till the cows come home 
and it'll do nothing for you."

'It saved my life'

Moran said he was never into drugs - and barely drinks.

But in 2008, he needed help.

He'd been diagnosed with family-related post-traumatic stress 
disorder after growing up with an alcoholic stepfather who had been a 
tail gunner in Vietnam and Korea.

"He brought both of those wars back home and back into our house," Moran said.

His mom, a nurse who'd grown up in an abusive household, laid down 
the law to her husband - he wasn't to touch her baby boy.

That didn't stop the violent outbursts, though. The stepfather killed 
Moran's beloved pets, threw TVs through walls and threatened to kill 
Moran and his mom.

As an adult living in California, Moran attended grief therapy and 
was prescribed medical marijuana to help with his PTSD.

"It saved my life," he said. "That's what first got me changing my 

So Moran, a businessman with a legal background and investments in 
other areas, including real estate and previously a swim club, turned 
his focus to the emerging cannabis industry.

He established a company, AcquiFlow, in 2014, once he moved back to 
Texas, to begin raising capital in anticipation of bills like the 
Compassionate Use Act. Moran said about 150,000 Texans with severe 
epilepsy could get relief from CBD oil.

"We've been building since our inception for exactly this," he said.

A family's battle

Slattery realized after his initial talk with Moran that the 
4-year-old daughter of his close friends Jeff and Shawna Davis might 
benefit from CBD oil. Karley Davis has Dravet syndrome, a severe form 
of epilepsy that causes frequent seizures. Most of her life, she's 
taken a revolving concoction of drugs to control the disease, but the 
seizures won't stop.

Her family hopes CBD oil will help. Jeff Davis lobbied for passage of 
the Compassionate Use Act.

"We owe this man a deep, deep sense of gratitude," Moran said. "The 
fight that he has fought for his daughter is incredible."

On a recent Wednesday, Shawna Davis joined Karley on the floor of 
their home in Haslet, about 20 miles north of Fort Worth.

She cradled her daughter in her arms as she put purple orthotic 
braces decorated with butterflies on the wiggling toddler's legs. She 
pulled little New Balance shoes onto Karley's feet, to keep her 
ankles from turning in.

Jeff Davis scooped Karley up and onto his lap. Her arms and legs 
briefly flailed.

"She jerks like that all day," he said. "The short ones are called 
myoclonic seizure, like that . ... She convulses. So if she's 
walking, she'll fall down."

She's had seizures throughout her young life. They started with grand 
mals, the violent convulsions most people think of when they hear the 
word "seizure."

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, most grand mal seizures end in 
a minute or two. But Karley's would routinely last much longer - one 
went on for an hour and 45 minutes.

She wasn't even a year old.

Karley, who has an autism spectrum disorder and is nonverbal, 
squirmed in her dad's arms and let out a squeal as she poked at an iPad.

They're working on communication and forming specific sounds in her 
therapy sessions. It's a struggle, Shawna Davis said, because Karley 
gets frustrated and when she does, she's more prone to seizures.

"She had 28 seizures the other day in therapy," Shawna Davis said. 
"So they have to stop and let her kind of cool down."

Hopes for Karley

The Davises hope CBD oil will minimize Karley's seizures and let them 
wean her off her medications.

They laughed as they recalled trying to get the Compassionate Use Act 
passed in Texas, the "reddest state." Shawna cared for Karley - a 
round-the-clock job - and their other daughter, 7-yearold Kendall, 
while Jeff hit the ground running.

He helped form the Compassionate Access for Epilepsy Texas Coalition, 
an initiative of Texas affiliates of the Epilepsy Foundation, to push 
for passage of the cannabis legislation.

It was tough, they said, to get their message across.

"Our whole intent was to help our kiddos, not get high," Shawna Davis 
said. "People think we're marijuana advocates. That couldn't be 
farther from the truth."

Under the Compassionate Use Act, access to CBD oil will be limited to 
people with intractable epilepsy - specifically, those who have been 
treated with at least two drugs that have proved ineffective in 
reducing their seizures.

The Texas Department of Public Safety will oversee implementation and 
regulation of the cannabis oil program. A patient registry is 
expected to be compiled in the next few months.

It can't happen soon enough for Karley's parents.

"There are no other medications available to give her," Jeff Davis 
said. "So it's either, 'Hey this is as good as it gets,' or, 'Hey 
this appears to be a better option.' That should be our choice."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom