Texas to open up medical cannabis licenses: “Creating a more competitive and transparent market"

For the first time in over six years, interested growers have a shot in the Texas medical cannabis market. Currently, there are only two operating licenses in the state, but this is supposed to change soon. “We will begin to take applications for new licenses around mid-January,” says Wayne Mueller, Chief Regulatory Services Division at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). During the recent DPS commission meeting, it was discussed that they wanted to create a more competitive and transparent medical cannabis market. “One of my concerns is that we ensure there is the capacity to serve those in need,” said DPS member Dale Wainwright. “Competition and transparency are important to keep things from getting bogged down and inefficiencies from being involved.”

Last month, the DPS already took action to expand its Compassionate Use Program so that it can accommodate a growing number of Texas patients who want to access medical cannabis, now allowing patients with other medical conditions than epilepsy – such as post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer —  into the medical cannabis program. “This increases the potential patients from a few thousand, to potentially 3-5 million+ patients,” says Riley Shields, Owner of Yanasi Farms on LinkedIn. “There are currently only two operating licensees, both in the Austin area and neither can effectively deliver medicine to all corners of the state.”

License applications
Wayne Mueller explained that they do not yet know how much interested to expect. “When taking applications, it is also in an effort to gain what actual interest there may be as far as new licensees. There has obviously been a lot of conversation and a lot of potential interest, but this will help us gauge what the actual interest is.” According to Mueller, the current plan is to open up the application window in mid-January and leave it open for approximately a 90 day period, until the middle or end of March. “At that point, we will take some time to assess the applications and see what the actual patient growth has been. Everything together, I would anticipate we’d be looking at a June to July time frame to announce the process and timing to the public.”

When it comes to the state’s medical cannabis program, they are looking for a consultant contract, so they can get subject matter expertise. “We want to work with individuals who have had some involvement in the development of other programs around the country, so that we’re not spinning our wheels. We want to get good recommendations as we make decision as we move forward with this program,” Mueller said.

PDS Chairman Steven P. Mach expressed his concern about people taking advantage of their license, holding it as an asset that will be valuable at a later point. “I think it’s critically important that those who seek a license are in fact planning to conduct business. If we’re going to have this product in Texas for the benefit of the public, people engaged in the business of producing it need to be actively doing so and not just sitting on a license. So I would be curious to see what kind of metrics for gauging their level of business activity will be. I think there should be a window of opportunity for producers to get up and running and then have some sort of ongoing metrics, in order to hold a license you have to actually be in business,” he said. Mueller explained that they would like to create an initial baseline, especially for a new licensee that’s ramping up, and then have an expectation of a minimum as they move forward.

High licensing fees
Looking at the industry reactions on social media, the high licensing fee seems to be a common concern. “I wonder if they will adjust the licensing fee from the current $411,000 with a $300,000 renewal every two years to actually make it feasible for many to enter this market,” Riley Shields said. In the reactions to his post, several people shared this concern. “I feel like the fees currently in place limit the ability to bring medicine to the people who need it most, and it is also a huge barrier for entry into the market/industry.”

For more information:
Texas Department of Public Safety 

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