The Texas Compassionate Use Act is nearly operational, and if all goes according to plan, qualifying patients should be able to access low-THC cannabis oil from a state-licensed dispensary sometime in early 2018.
Here are five key things to know about the medical cannabis program before it takes effect:
The Compassionate Use Act only provides for the medical use of non-smokable forms of low-THC cannabis.
Low-THC cannabis strains are grown with very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – marijuana’s primary psychoactive compound – and higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) – a non-psychoactive cannabinoid known for its broad range of potential medical applications.
Under the Compassionate Use Act, low-THC medical cannabis must contain 10 percent or more CBD and not more than 0.5 percent THC. The medicine must be obtained from a state-licensed dispensary, and patients aren’t allowed to grow their own marijuana at home.
Qualifying medical conditions
Under the current program, intractable epilepsy is the only condition that qualifies for the medical use of low-THC cannabis oil.
Intractable epilepsy is legally defined as “a seizure disorder in which the patient’s seizures have been treated by two or more appropriately chosen and maximally titrated antiepileptic drugs that have failed to control the seizures.”
Getting a medical cannabis prescription
Patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy may be prescribed medical cannabis if a qualified physician determines the risk of low-THC cannabis treatment is “reasonable in light of the potential benefits for the patient.” Patients will also need a concurring diagnosis and treatment plan from a second qualified physician.
Qualifying physicians must specialize in the field of examining, diagnosing and treating epilepsy, and be registered with the Compassionate Use Program (CUP) before prescribing medical cannabis.
Physicians must also register medical cannabis patient information, including diagnosis and treatment plans, with the Department of Public Safety. Patient information is stored in the Compassionate Use Registry, a secure online database accessible to physicians, dispensing organizations and law enforcement.
Once registered, patients and their legal guardians will be exempt from certain state laws prohibiting the possession of marijuana in Texas.
Is there an age limit for patients?
There is no age limit to register as a cannabis patient in Texas. However, patients under the age of 18 may require permission from a legal guardian.
Legal guardians can pick up cannabis prescriptions from a dispensing location on behalf of patients, so long at the prescribing physician has submitted the guardian’s information to the state for identification purposes.
What will medical cannabis cost?
While there are no fees associated with registering as a medical cannabis patient in Texas, medical cannabis prices will reflect market pricing. It is unlikely that insurance companies will provide any sort of subsidy for medical cannabis treatments.