It's something that feels like both a really big step and a tiny one at the same time: On Thursday, Compassionate Cultivation will open Texas' first licensed cannabis oil dispensary just outside of Austin in Manchaca.
Don't plan on skipping work. Don't bother gassing up the car. The people who might be most pleased by this news might not have driver's licenses anyway. The dispensary will only sell one product — low-THC, will-not-get-you-high cannabidiol oil — to an exceedingly limited group of customers.
In Texas, the only people who can legally get prescriptions for, purchase or use the oil are those with intractable epilepsy. To get the oil, they have to visit one of 17 state-approved doctors — the closest to Dallas is in Tarrant County — before visiting the dispensary or arranging for delivery from one of the state's three licensed CBD oil producers. This week's dispensary opening comes on the heels of another milestone.
That's not to minimize the importance of getting this drug into the hands of people it may help. The Texas Legislature has already done that by refusing to pass a more expansive medical marijuana law that would allow cannabis with THC for countless other ill Texans, from veterans with PTSD to cancer patients. Still, from a tiny seed a mighty pot plant grows, so let's call this hopeful news.
The state allowed the producers to begin growing cannabis in September, but it took until last Thursday for the first epilepsy patient to receive any medicine from the startups, according to Knox Medical, a Florida-based company producing CBD oil in Schulenberg. Knox Medical filled an unidentified 6-year-old girl's prescription via its direct-to-patient delivery service.
“For Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy, the wait for medical cannabis is finally over,” José Hidalgo, chief executive officer of Knox Medical, said in statement. “This is a historic day for Texas, and we will work tirelessly to uphold the trust and responsibility the state has placed in Knox Medical.”
Those visiting the new dispensary will have an experience like at a typical pharmacy, dispensary manager Cullen Vujosevic said.
"Staff will be ready to answer questions, as well as provide patient consultations, physician outreach resources and detailed information on our product lines and retail merchandise,” said Vujosevic, a veteran of a cannabis dispensary in New Mexico.
While Morris Denton, Compassionate Cultivation's CEO, is happy that Texas has allowed some movement on medical marijuana, he said he's ready to expand into other products and services whenever the state Legislature or the federal government loosens the reins.
"Ultimately, what needs to happen is that Congress needs to change the law," he told the Observer last month as he was preparing to harvest Compassionate Cultivation's first marijuana crop.
The dispensary's grand opening party is open to the public, but, as Compassionate Cultivation is quick to point out, "purchase of cannabis-based medicine is limited to state-registered patients and legal guardians." Moving forward, the dispensary will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and by appointment.