HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Marijuana To Start Growing In South Texas
Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2017
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2017 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Contact: http://www.star-telegram.com/submit-a-letter/
Website: http://www.star-telegram.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/162
Author: Anna M. Tinsley

MEDICAL MARIJUANA TO START GROWING IN SOUTH TEXAS

Any day now, medical marijuana will legally start to grow in the state
of Texas.

It will be planted, grown and processed on a 10-acre parcel of land in
Schulenburg, a small community east of San Antonio, now that the
company that owns the property -- Cansortium Texas -- has received the
state's first license to do so.

The low-level cannabidiol will be sold, under a 2015 law, to help
Texans with intractable epilepsy if federally approved medication
hasn't helped.

"We expect to have the medicine by the end of this year, I hope by
December," said Jose Hidalgo, chief executive officer of Cansortium
Holdings, the Florida-based parent company of Cansortium Texas. "Our
focus is to give access to patients.

"With a population of 27 million plus in Texas, it is so important for
us to be there and provide" medicine for patients.

Cansortium Texas was the first company to receive state approval for
medical cannabis from the Texas Department of Public Safety, although
officials are soon expected to give approval to two other companies --
Compassionate Cultivation and Surterra Texas -- as well.

This culminates years of work, since the Texas Legislature, led by
state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, approved the Texas
Compassionate Use Act to make use of cannabidiol, or CBD, legal for at
least some of the nearly 150,000 Texans estimated to have intractable
epilepsy.

This ingredient of a marijuana plant lets a patient get the benefits
without the high. A different component, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol,
is the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high.

I'm hoping that some of these folks will have a merry Christmas
because this product will be available in Texas.

To get this medical marijuana, Texans must have a prescription and
then potentially pay between $45 and $90 for the medicine.

Other marijuana use, for medical or recreational reasons, remains
illegal in Texas and more than a dozen other states. But it is legal
in more than 25 other states.

"A lot of folks think this could happen overnight," said Klick, a
nurse who helped write the bill. "But this is a very complex industry.
These children need a consistent quality of meds. That's why this has
taken so long. It's incredible complex.

"I"m hoping that some of these folks will have a merry Christmas
because this product will be available in Texas."

DPS workers for months have been reviewing more than 40 applications
by companies hoping to legally grow medical cannabis in Texas.

The first permit was issued Sept. 1 to Cansortium Texas and two more
are expected soon.

The Texas Cannabis Industry Association has filed a complaint about
the program, calling on more than three licenses to be issued.

"TCIA believes the state needs to prepare for an immediate second
round of applications and issue at least nine additional provisional
licenses to 'ensure reasonable statewide access,' " the letter stated.
"The industry is in place and engaged."

It's not a cheap or easy process.

The companies had to have facilities in place before the state license
could be issued. And they each must pay a nearly $490,000 fee once
approved, as well as a nearly $320,000 renewal fee every two years if
they want to keep operating their facility in Texas.

These fees are high and geared to cover the cost of regulating a new
industry in Texas.

As for Cansortium Texas, their facility is about 230 miles south of
Fort Worth, off West U.S. 90 in Schulenburg.

For now, plants will be grown inside in what is known as MCPUs,
Modular Cultivation and Processing Units, with round-the-clock security.

Hidalgo said he's trying to keep a lot of details confidential, but he
did say the parcel of land is in an agricultural area that is nowhere
near schools, parks or homes.

"We are going to start cultivating any moment," he said
recently.

The company will sell only the liquid form of medical cannabis --
whether in capsules or drops -- as it does in other states under the
Knox Medical brand.

A look at some of the work being done at Knox Medical, which produces
medical marijuana.

A look online at the company's Florida website cites prices for some
CBD products as $45 for one 300 milligram vape cartridge or sublingual
drops and $90 for a 600 milligram vape cartridge or sublingual drops.

"Our mission is to help the thousands of children and parents and
elderly and people who really need the medicine," Hidalgo said. "We
know the price is important ... (because) this is not yet covered by
insurance."

This law was the first time Texas lawmakers legalized any form of
cannabis.

But they've long stressed -- some even describing it as the difference
between grape juice and wine -- that this is an extremely limited form
of medical marijuana and lets the patient receive benefits without the
high.

State officials have been working on rules governing the process of
the CBD oil for the past two years.

Once the product is fully available, only certain doctors -- those
registered with the Compassionate Use Program -- may prescribe the
product to treat intractable epilepsy.

Hidalgo declined to say how much marijuana will be grown at his
facility, but he said it will take two doctors to prescribe the
medicine, one to recommend the patient and the other to validate the
prescription.

Then the patient would be registered with the Compassionate Program in
order to get the medicine that, at least initially, can come through
home deliveries.

Already, Hidalgo said he's received countless emails, letters and
calls from prospective customers, doctors and more hoping for
information about the product.

This type of medicine, which must be prescribed by a doctor, may not
cross state lines and only be sold in the state where it is
manufactured.

That's why Hidalgo's Cansortium Holdings has separate locations in
Florida, Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania and now Texas.

"There's no shortage of (people) reaching out to us, patients,
physicians (and other) groups," Hidalgo said. "We've received all
kinds of requests already."

There were efforts in the Texas Legislature earlier this year to
expand this law, and open it up to patients with ailments other than
intractable epilepsy.

Klick said that didn't happen because there's not enough data to show
if this low-level cannabidiol would successfully help other medical
conditions.

Klick said she doesn't know whether this law will be expanded any in
the future.

"I think Texas is going to take a slow, careful approach," she
said.
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