Growing soon in Austin: Medical marijuana, bound for those with rare form...

Growing soon in Austin: Medical marijuana, bound for those with rare form of epilepsy

Growing soon in Austin: Medical marijuana, bound for those with rare form of epilepsy

Even as the Texas Legislature debates a robust medical marijuana bill, the state’s first foray into using weed as a health care treatment is moving closer to liftoff with three companies leading the way — one of which has already disclosed plans for a North Austin grow site and processing facility.

It will be the first private — and legal — weed-growing enterprise in a state known for being bullishly stand-offish about the plant.

Some Texans with epilepsy will soon be able to buy marijuana-derived cannabidiol (CBD) oil with extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the hallucinogenic compound in marijuana. That means it will relieve pain but not produce a euphoric high.

Three companies received conditional approval May 1 from the Texas Department of Public Safety to participate in the Compassionate Use Program, dependent on follow-up inspections of their production facilities. All are licensed to “cultivate, extract and dispense” marijuana that is less than 0.5 percent THC by weight. They are:

  • Surterra Texas, part of a company that already produces low-THC medical marijuana in Florida — which has unveiled plans to grow the marijuana in the Austin area;
  • Cansortium Texas, a subsidiary of a company that also operates in Florida; and
  • Compassionate Cultivation.

A total of 43 companies applied, such as a joint venture that included a startup based at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

The three recipients of the DPS licenses have a clear advantage in being the first to reach commercialization, which is a critical factor to success in any nascent industry. These pioneers of low-THC medical marijuana will also have an inside track to wider marijuana cultivation in Texas in case lawmakers ever relax the state’s rules.

The low-THC CBD products permitted under the Compassionate Use Program are different from the CBD oil already available to Texas consumers. Unlike marijuana-derived CBD oil, hemp-derived CBD oil contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, said Sheila Hemphill, policy director of the Texas Hemp Industries Association. Go here for more background on the differences.

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