Texas Shutters Applications For New Marijuana Dispensaries

By Paul Gaita 10/17/19

Law enforcement in the state have expressed concern that some patients may cross state lines to obtain medical cannabis.

texas marijuana dispensary

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has suspended its application process for new cannabis dispensary permits, which has left marijuana businesses, advocates and medical marijuana patients unsure of how and where to sell and obtain product, High Times reports.

The DPS did not give a reason or warning for its decision beyond a tersely-worded message on its website—but the Austin, Texas NPR affiliate KUT opined that the passage of House Bill 3703, which expanded qualifying conditions for the state's medical marijuana program, may have contributed to the department's move.

Qualifying For Medical Marijuana

According to state Representative Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), who sponsored the bill, official determination of which disorders will qualify for medicinal marijuana may take months, which could have prompted the DPS shutdown on applications. She advised cannabis businesses and medical marijuana patients to "hang tight for now."

Applications for dispensary permits were initially slated from October 1 to November 1, 2019, and according to KUT, the state hoped to attract interest from dozens of companies. Forty-three businesses have submitted applications for preliminary licenses since the passage of the Compassionate Use Act in 2015, but only three were approved before the Department brought the process to a close after only a week.

Changes To The Law

An email from a DPS spokesperson to KUT said that the department "will continue to assess dispensing capacity requirements, along with the need for any additional licenses, as we work through recent legislative changes to the program."

The legislative changes referred to by the spokesperson may refer to the passage of House Bill 3703 by the Texas Senate in May 2019, which amended the state's Compassionate Use Program for medical marijuana.

Which Conditions Are Covered?

Prior to its passage, only individuals with severe forms of epilepsy were given access to the drug, but the bill would expand access to patients with all forms of epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, ALS and other incurable neurodegenerative diseases. 

The bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in June, but the department has yet to determine exactly which disorders would be covered under the bill, as well as how many patients would be covered under the new legislation. A public hearing was held by the Department of State Health Services in September 2019 to clarify those issues.

As Klick told KUT, "This is likely just a temporary delay until we know which conditions are appropriate to be included on the list."

Until then, medical marijuana patients in Texas have few options on where to obtain cannabis. In addition to being limited to the three dispensaries, marijuana oil is not covered by insurance or Medicare, forcing many to pay out of pocket for the medication.

As High Times noted, law enforcement in the Lone Star State has expressed concern that some patients may cross state lines to obtain medical cannabis.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.