Texas Compassionate Use Program Update – October 2019

The Texas Compassionate Use Program (T.CUP) was originally enacted in 2015, allowing access to low-THC cannabis for those with intractable epilepsy. Earlier this year, the program was expanded to include more patients. Unfortunately, it still falls very short of the medical freedom recognized in 33 other states that allow safe and legal access to cannabis with a doctor’s approval. (Program overview.)

T.CUP is generally regulated by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), but the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is responsible for defining “incurable neurodegenerative disease,” one of the recently added qualifying conditions.

At a recent hearing where they accepted public comment, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that DSHS is considering over 100 specific conditions or symptoms (44 TexReg 5541), including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s Disease. Unless amendments are necessary, the definition of “incurable neurodegenerative disease” is expected to be finalized by December 2, 2019. Once final, these patients would have access to T.CUP through a registered physician. (Physician registration info.)

According to DPS, fewer than 1,700 patients have actually been able to receive medicine through this program after four years of implementation. This number is significantly lower than the 150,000 potential patients touted by lawmakers when the unreasonably restrictive bill was first passed into law. With the newly added conditions, we estimate more than one million patients could qualify.

Currently, three businesses are licensed to cultivate, process, and dispense low-THC cannabis under T.CUP. On September 16, DPS unexpectedly announced that they would open a 30-day application period for new businesses to apply for licensure. A week into the licensing period, however, DPS abruptly suspended the process. Little explanation has been given, but DPS did tell the San Antonio Express-News“By all accounts we’re meeting today’s demand…We want to see what that’s going to look like in the next few months and decide whether we need to do anything.”

There is no announced plan to re-open the application process and DPS is not required to do so as long as the currently licensed businesses can “ensure reasonable statewide access,” as required by law. Read more info here, including my opinion of what’s really going on.

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