AUSTIN, Texas - There are currently only three licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Texas. It's a small number because the list of conditions for legal prescriptions is limited.
Thursday, the state Public Safety Commission heard testimony from the Chief of Regulatory Services Wayne Mueller. The commission was told the recent inclusion of PTSD will dramatically increase demand.
"The next 18 to 24 months we should be seeing somewhere in the range of 100,000 patients, I think we will get there. So that’s why were are trying to plan now for that eventuality," said Mueller.
Geoffrey Young, the founder of the Veteran’s Cannabis Project, believes the number will be larger.
"PTSD alone should be able to clear that hurdle and then adding in the rest of the other diagnosis as well, much less what could be added in the upcoming legislative session.
Young is encouraged more licenses may be added, but Chief Mueller made it clear how many remains in question.
"As I said last meeting, and the numbers still hold true, we do not need another licensee right now, today, but the projections clearly show that we are going to need one in the next several months," said Mueller.
In comparison to other medical marijuana states, the three licensed dispensaries in Texas are outnumbered. Florida's has 22 and Oklahoma has 2,477.
"I don’t think there is any state that’s gotten it exactly right just yet," said Young.
One of the three Texas sites is located in South Austin.
"When we're six months or so before we're going to cross the threshold, that's when I think they need to look at doing an additional license," said Morris Denton, the owner of Texas Original.
Denton advocates a slow approach to license expansion.
"It's when you create too much product, and you have too much supply that it craters the market, and it creates the potential for licensees to be selling product out the back door or to non-licensed patients. Right. And that's the last thing that we as a compassionate use program in the state of Texas need are some bad headlines," said Denton.
Texas law only allows one location for a license holder. Which is why Denton favors a different kind of expansion.
"It's kind of like telling a pizza company, hey, look, you guys can cook pizzas, but you got to serve the whole state, and you're only allowed to have one kitchen and your pizzas better arrive hot. Right. I mean, it's a logistical impossibility for us and the state of Texas, as big as the state is geographically to adequately and efficiently serve patients regardless of whether they live in El Paso or Texarkana or Amarillo or Brownsville," said Denton.
With that in mind, the commission is starting the process of drafting rules for license holders to open satellite storefronts in different parts of the state. The storefront plan is expected to include strict security measures.
The proposals for expansion may be submitted to the Commission in December.