One of the new laws scheduled to take effect this September 1 is the Compassionate Use Act. The bill signed in 2015 was supposed to grant access to CBD oil derived from the cannabis plant to Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy.
However, in a letter to Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, leaders in the Texas medical cannabis industry say that although they appreciate Governor Abbott’s past support, unless he takes action now to initiate changes to the Compassionate Use Program, (CUP), the life-changing medication will remain out of reach for most Texans suffering from this debilitating condition.
Chad Sykes, Chief of Cultivation at Alamo CBD and co-founder of the Medical Cannabis Association of Texas (MCAT), says that he feels that the implementation of the Compassionate Use Act as currently designed is problematic.
“Having reviewed the program, I have serious questions about how the medicine is going to be produced and delivered to the patients,” said Sykes. “The technology and sciences required for the advancement of this medication were apparently not considered during the decision-making process when the state arbitrarily decided to issue only three permits.”
In the letter, MCAT says unless Governor Abbott intervenes to save the program it is destined to fail. “We want to see that the wishes of the Legislature are indeed met. Our immediate goal is to see the Compassionate Use Act implemented in a fair manner in accordance with state law so Texans who qualify can receive this medicine,” Sykes said.
MCAT aims to begin efforts to build bipartisan support for legislation and to educate legislators, regulators and patients on the current science behind the use of cannabis as medicine. With a focus solely on cannabis for approved medical purposes, MCAT intends to separate itself from groups advocating for broader legalization.
The letter to the Governor signed by MCAT co-founders Chad Sykes and former State Representative Keith Oakley is provided in its entirety below:
The Honorable Gregg Abbott, August 16, 2017
Dear Governor Abbott,
The members of the Medical Cannabis Association of Texas, (MCAT), would like to again thank you for signing S.B. 339, the Compassionate Use Act, back in 2015.
At the bill signing ceremony, Texas patients suffering with intractable epilepsy that were in the room that day, and those watching across the state were hopeful that they would soon gain access to this life changing medication.
However, two years later, access to CBD oil for these patients is still nowhere in sight. Without major changes to the rules governing the Compassionate Use Program, (CUP), adopted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, this medication will remain out of reach for most Texans with intractable epilepsy.
Even though S.B. 339 states, “The department shall issue permits to each applicant that qualifies,” to produce CBD oil, DPS has chosen to issue only three provisional permits to produce the medication for the entire state of Texas. Two of the permits are located in the Austin area and one in Schertz, Texas.
Since federal law and DPS rules do not allow for CBD oil dispensaries in the state, patients will have to travel to one of the three locations in Austin or one of the three producers will have to deliver the medication directly to the patient.
With only these three permits in Texas the cost of the medication will be kept artificially high and by also limiting access geographically it will remain out of reach for most of the estimated 150,000 patients who qualify in Texas.
Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy living in Amarillo, El Paso, Dallas, and East Texas, the Rio Grande Valley or the Houston area will be forced to travel to the Austin area each month to pick up the medication or pay an outrageous delivery fee.
We are urging you to allow DPS to issue additional permits to the 40 qualified applicants to produce CBD oil and direct the department to take into consideration the geographical and logistical problems hindering the success of this critical program.
Again, thank you for your past support of the program and we implore you to take immediate action to keep your promise to these most vulnerable Texans who desperately need your help.
Chad Sykes and Keith Oakley, Co-founders, MCAT