AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas DPS Public Safety Commission took action Thursday to expand its Compassionate Use Program so that it can accommodate a growing number of Texas patients who want to access medical marijuana.
The Compassionate Use Act was originally passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015 to allow doctors to prescribe THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) products to patients with epilepsy. Since then, the original bill has expanded to allow patients with other medical conditions – such as post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer — into the medical marijuana program.
“For the last 18 months, we have seen a significant increase in the growth of patients within the program, approximately averaging about a 10% month-over-month growth,” Chief Wayne Mueller of the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
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 rises, there are still only three licensed cannabis providers in the state, according to reporting by Austin Business Journal. In 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 address the rising number of patients, the Public Safety Commission agreed to hire a consultant who could help them grow as a program and procure more licensees that can distribute medical marijuana to patients.
“While we are in this fledgling stage with this program, I think bringing in a person or an entity that has experience with other state programs that were at the same point (at some) time will give us some vital insights so that we’re not trying to reinvent any wheels,” Mueller said.
In addition, the commissioners also passed a working group that can help facilitate any changes the Texas legislature may request the program make in the next session. They also approved a resolution allowing the current three licensees to open satellite locations throughout 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 Cannabis Project.
“Our message is a simple one: Medical cannabis saves lives, and veterans deserve full, legal access,” the organization has written on its website.