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Texas' First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Is Due to Open Next Week

The birth of the state's medical cannabis program inspires hope that conservative legislators will eventually accept legal marijuana.

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On February 8th, the first medical cannabis dispensary in the state of Texas will open its doors to the public. Compassionate Cultivation received the state's first dispensary license on October 31st of last year, and planted their first cannabis seeds the same day. Two and a half months later, the Austin-based company has successfully harvested and extracted CBD oil from their plants, and plans to begin sales in a matter of weeks.

“It’s a historic day for us, for Texas, for Texans, for those people that have been long waiting for this medicine,” Compassionate Cultivation CEO Morris Denton said to the Houston Press. “There are people that were refugees in other states that are now able to come back to Texas because this medicine is available,” he added. “Once we see the impact of it, that’s when I’ll know it was worth the struggle, it was worth the difficulty, it was worth the investment.”

Compassionate Cultivation is one of three dispensaries that will be opening in Texas this year under the state's Compassionate Use Act. The law, which passed back in 2015, only allows CBD formulations to be sold, and only to those suffering from intractable epilepsy. It also permits the licensing of three businesses to each cultivate, process, and then sell their own cannabis formulations to the estimated 150,000 eligible patients in the state. The grand majority of the state's residents support medical cannabis, however, increasing the chances that this highly-restrictive program will be expanded when the state legislature meets for their 2019 session.

Denton said that despite these restrictions, the very fact that a Republican-dominated state like Texas has even allowed pot to be cultivated is a positive sign that bipartisan support for medical marijuana is beginning to spread. "I think it’s a rare opportunity to not just witness history, [but] to participate or even lead history," he said to Newsweek. "The only way to make [medical cannabis] a reality is by proving the efficacy of it, one step at a time in Texas. When it becomes apparent this medicine can help their son, their mother, their father, this quickly goes from being about a political issue to improving the lives around us.”

While the beginnings of this medical cannabis program may posit a greener future for the Lone Star State, local law enforcement is slow to embrace comprehensive marijuana reform. Major cities like Dallas and Houston have recently implemented new “cite-and-release” programs, where low-level cannabis offenders are issued a citation and court date instead of being immediately arrested. But in Dallas, every single citation issued by police during the first two months of the program was given to a minority. “The stats confirm something that I've been saying for a long time," Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston said to the Dallas Observer. "Marijuana is already legal in the city of Dallas as long as you're white."

Back in Austin, a local man was sentenced to eight months in jail and five years of probation for simultaneously possessing firearms and 6 grams of weed. Steven Boehle reportedly suffers from epilepsy, which normally would qualify him for the state's newly legal MMJ program. But now that he is on probation, his access to legal CBD could be denied, forcing him to consider returning to black market marijuana to treat his symptoms.

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