Cannabis growing in Texas for patients with intractable epilepsy

(PHOTO: CBS Austin)

Legal cannabis is growing in Texas. The plants at Compassionate Cultivation south of Austin in Manchaca are one month old. Soon they’ll be harvested and turned into medicine.

In 2015 the Texas State Legislature passed the Texas Compassionate Use Act. It allows Texans with intractable epilepsy to qualify for cannabis-based treatment. Legalizing cannabis growth for a medical purpose in Texas wasn't easy.

“It feels like a gift to our family,” says Terri Carriker. Carriker’s daughter, Catherine--- now 15 years old, -- was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy at age three. Brain surgeries, special diets and prescription pills have hardly helped. A few years ago the Carrikers tried a cannabis-based treatment in another state.

“It was amazing what it did for her,” recalls Carriker. Catherine is one of about 100,000 Texans who could benefit from the medicine growing at Compassionate Cultivation.

“Everybody is not going to respond to this medication, but those that do... it is life changing,” says Rep. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth. Klick lead the charge to pass the Texas Compassionate Use Act at the State Capitol in 2015. Tuesday, Compassionate Cultivation named a vegetation room and a cannabis strain in her honor.

The plants won't have more than .5 percent THC-- so they won't get you high. They'll be harvested in January, go through extraction and be turned into oils and tablets.

“Our mission as a business has been less about trying to create a business and more about creating the best in class medicine on a consistent basis that can change peoples' lives,” says Compassionate Cultivation CEO Morris Denton.

When customers visit the Compassionate Cultivation storefront, the space they’ll have access to will look much different from the rest of the facility. It will have carpeting and furniture with rounded edges to make the are safer for those with epilepsy.

“To be here now. To see it actually happening... it's a little surreal,” says Carriker. For some parents it’s surreal but also painful. Epilepsy parents spent years fighting for this medication for their kids but some who started that fight in 2015 will not get to finish it.

“We've lost five kids [in the intractable epilepsy community] in the meantime, and my daughter could have been among them. So it's a little bittersweet from that perspective,” says Carriker.

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