Medical marijuana starts growing in Texas
Medical marijuana will soon be sprouting in Texas. By the first of next year, some Texans with intractable epilepsy could have cannabis derived prescriptions filled here at home.
Seven-year-old Elliott Graham started struggling with seizures at age two.
"They were subtle but have really devastating cognitive effects," explains Elliott's mom, Katie Graham. As he's gotten older his diagnosis has become more serious. Elliott now has multiple types of seizures that are difficult to control. He was recently diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and autism.
"It's been a really long journey," Graham says. It's a journey epilepsy parents know well. Katie and Jim Graham have spent most of Elliott's life trying to find the balance between seizure control and increased doses of medication with severe side effects.
"He's in a cognitive fog often. It's very, very difficult to learn lots of behavioral problems, sleep issues," she explains. However, relief could be coming.
In 2015, the state legislature passed the Texas Compassionate Use Act. It will allow Texans with intractable epilepsy to try a medical marijuana solution. Patients are only eligible for the cannabis-derived drug if multiple pharmaceuticals have failed them and two physicians recommend it. Elliott will immediately qualify.
"It's a plant that could actually improve Elliot's quality of life without the devastating side effects of some of the other drugs he's on," says Katie Graham.
This month the Department of Public Safety awarded licenses to three companies wishing to grow medical marijuana in Texas. More than 40 companies applied. The application fee alone costs about $7,000 and the license -- if selected -- costs more than $400,000.
Morris Denton, CEO at Compassionate Cultivation, says they'll start their grow in a warehouse south of Austin in a matter of days.
"For the people that know this medicine works it's coming. For the people that maybe are questioning whether this medicine works give it a chance. Keep an open mind," says Denton.
Denton gave CBS Austin and the Graham family a behind the scenes look at the Compassionate Cultivation facility. All of the plants will be grown indoors. The bright light in the flower room simulates daylight. However, the team can flip a switch to turn the bright light off and allow green lights to turn the room into night. That way the plants get the rest they need but it's still enough light for Compassionate Cultivation to see and work.
"People think that we're growing some kind of plant that if they break in and they take it it's going to have all of this value on the street and the reality is that couldn't be further from the truth," explains Denton.
The cannabis plants at Compassionate Cultivation won't have more than .5 percent THC -- the ingredient known for giving people a "high." For context, recreational use plants in other states tend to have between 12-25 percent THC. The medical marijuana grown in Texas won't have psychoactive effects. After about 90 days, the plants will start being turned into medicine -- pills, tablets or oils.
While some of the medication may be called CBD Oil, naturopathic doctor Becky Andrews says it's not the hemp-derived CBD Oil that you'll find on store shelves today.
"One is made from the flowers of a plant that's allowed to make THC and one is made from the seeds and leaves and stems of a plant that is bred not to have THC," explains Andrews.
For families like the Grahams, the wait is almost over.
"We're really, really hopeful that the new offering in Texas will actually make a big difference," says Katie Graham. In a matter of months, a cannabis derived solution will be available for them legally and in their home state.
"This medicine has real truth and real capability in treating people that are suffering, and it's our mission to help reduce the suffering of those people who need it," says Denton.