Weathering the Storm: Expanding the CUP to Better Serve Texas’s Medical Marijuana Patients

Winter Storm Uri jeopardized the health of millions throughout the state of Texas. Many vulnerable Texans that rely on both pharmaceuticals and medical marijuana to manage debilitating symptoms experienced dangerous disruptions to care. Qualified medical marijuana patients—including those with neurodegenerative conditions such as epilepsy, ALS and Parkinson’s Disease—were stranded in their homes miles away from their nearest dispensaries, a challenge rooted in troublesome state regulations under the Compassionate Use Program.

Currently, Texas medical marijuana dispensaries are restricted by law from storing inventory in more than one location throughout the state. For us, that means our patients in the farthest corners of the state are upwards of eight or nine hours away. On a clear day, this makes picking up and delivering prescriptions unnecessarily complicated. But Winter Storm Uri highlighted a dangerous problem with this model: Many patients faced rationing or even going without their medication because inventory was stuck in one central location with delivery trucks unable to travel on the icy, treacherous roads. State regulations put these Texans in a difficult position, in some cases risking seizures, restricting mobility and inflicting preventable pain.

Our CEO, Morris Denton, recently spoke with Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary Magazine about this groundless issue and its concerning effects on the thousands of medical marijuana patients in Texas. He noted, “[The TOCC team] did our absolute best, but we still had patients in parts of Texas who had to start to ration some of their medicine because they were worried about when we were going to be able to get back out to see them. And that’s sort of a needless thing for them to worry about if we had the ability to…store inventory closer to where those patients live. They may have been able to come to us or we could have quickly gotten it out to them. It’s just part of the restrictions of the program that unfortunately this weather event is shining a light on…”

With the power to store inventory throughout the state, dispensaries like ours could evaluate opening additional locations based on regional patient needs. By bringing dispensaries closer to our patients, we eliminate unnecessary travel time and reduce the risk of patients missing doses under their doctors’ guidance.

A mother of a TOCC patient located just outside of Austin described her fear during the winter storm.

“We did get a little nervous when I saw that [the winter storm] was not going to be just a weekend thing, but it was going into the week,” the patient’s mother said. “I looked at [her] medicine and said, ‘You know, I wasn’t prepared for this.’ It wasn’t just her medical marijuana… it was also her pharmaceuticals she takes. Both were low.”

The patient’s mother went on to explain that missing doses could have led to cluster seizures, which she described as their “worst fear.”

Another patient’s mother described a similar experience.

“Because of the winter storm, we ran out of medicine for my son at the end of the week,” she said. “The closest medical marijuana dispensary to our house is 45 minutes away, and I missed normal business hours trying to get there in time. If staff hadn’t been working overtime, my son would have had to skip doses and risk damaging seizures. This was a stressful and dangerous situation that might have been avoided if medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed to store inventory across the state and closer to our home.”

We are actively advocating to expand the Compassionate Use Program to better serve our patients throughout Texas. Lifting cumbersome regulations on licensed medical marijuana businesses is critical to empower our teams to deliver and distribute life-changing medication more efficiently to qualified patients in need while helping to prevent the dangerous disruptions to care that we witnessed during Winter Storm Uri.

To learn more about our legislative agenda, click aquí.