Medical Marijuana…in Texas? The Texas Compassionate Use Program is actually starting to move in to motion. Licenses are soon to be awarded and companies are ready to make the jump into legal medical cannabis in the Lone Star State.
USTIN — A small town in North Texas could see Texas’ first full-scale medical cannabis business.
Out where the roads go down to two lanes and where time itself seems to slow down, there’s a place that — on its surface — seems like countless others.
“Gunter’s a small, rural farm community located about 40 minutes north of Dallas,” Mayor Tim Slattery describes it. “Our city proper is conservative, probably 90 percent.”
There, on the outskirts of town, half buried in weeds, Patrick Moran found what he was looking for. The Amarillo native and McKinney resident aims to make this hundred year-old gin ground zero for a brand new Texas industry: Medicine made from cannabis.
The state’s “compassionate use” law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) in 2015 allows the tightly regulated production and sale of cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Made from a specially engineered strain that produces no ‘high,’ it has no street value, but is highly valued for treating epileptic seizures.
Patrick’s company AcquiFlow plans to be among the first to obtain licenses to cultivate, process and distribute the oil, all from the Gunter location. Once converted, the cotton gin will include a dispensary, education center and museum dedicated to local history, potentially drawing business from hundreds of miles in every direction. “From this point we can be in downtown Fort Worth and downtown Dallas in an hour,” Moran told KVUE Thursday.
“It’s just an amazing piece of history. It’s a really neat place and it tells a great story,” said Moran. Yet when Mayor Slattery heard Moran’s story, he told KVUE, “Like anybody else my initial thought was, ‘Marijuana,’ and, No.'”
After countless e-mails, phone calls, blog posts and two town hall meeting, the city delivered its official verdict. “I would say the majority of the community, and I’m talking on the high end of the majority of the community within this city, is for it.” Slattery explained, “The reason is because of the potential benefits it brings to the city.”
Gunter Economic Development Corporation Vice President Jon Goetz listed the business and exposure, but added the he and many other residents have a more personal reason to support the venture. Goetz knows people living there who would benefit, “And it makes me proud personally to know that it would be in our town.”
“I know of five individuals within the city, confirmed, that would directly benefit,” Slattery told KVUE. “I have seen a three year old child experience the effects in a negative way, and it is heartbreaking on a personal level. So to now that this child can potentially have a somewhat normal life relative to the use of the CBD oil is a no-brainer.”
Gunter has its skeptics, including the state representative whose district includes the town.
“I’ve got citizens that are not very pleased that there may be one coming in their small community,” state Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), who voted against the bill, told a hearing last week of the Texas House House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, which he chairs. “There’s some other citizens there that are, and then there are some citizens that may be willing to stomach it if they know it’s going to be safe.”
“Their concerns are that it’s going to be the gateway to the medical marijuana or the recreational marijuana,” said Slattery, “But it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum of this. This is a medical product that produces no high. It has no street value. It’s no different than if we had a hydrocodone plant open up here.”
“I’ve just seen this as God’s hand,” said Moran, who as shocked to discover that not only did the mayor have a close friend with an epileptic daughter, but a member of the city council had three family members who are afflicted with the type of severe epilepsy CBD oil is intended to treat. “What happens here affects the state of state of Texas. So we’ve got 150,000 patients that we’ve got to reach and they’re in all corners of this state.”
“It’s an unselfish act for this city to bring this in, or allow it to come in and provide potential help to all these children,” Slattery explained.
Moran has a lot of work to do. The Texas Department of Public Safety, charges with licensing and regulating the new industry, will issue the first licenses June 1, 2017. Moran plans to begin planting the next day, and expects to have product available within 90 days.