Texas lawmakers passed the Compassionate Use Act in 2015, allowing some epilepsy patients access to a form of marijuana for treatment.
It's called cannabidiol (or CBD) oil and two years later, it is almost available.
"We decided to throw our hat in the ring," said Dr. Scott Bier, CEO of Green Well Ventures.
He and his team invested years of research in the hopes of becoming one of the first CBD dispensaries in Texas.
"A lot of sweat equity at this point," Bier said. "A lot of time, thousands of hours."
CBD oil, which is made from marijuana plants, comes from different constituent chemicals than commonly known THC.
"CBD does not have nearly the same psychoactive kind of effects that THC does. THC is what causes the so-called high," Bier said. "This type of cannabis is high in CBD and low in THC, which is actually very effective in treating certain types of intractable epilepsy."
Back in 2015, Texas lawmakers acknowledged CBD's benefits to some epilepsy victims and decided to legalize it, passing the Compassionate Use Act.
"We are happy that the Texas state government was forward-looking enough to allow us to use CBD to treat these patients," Bier said.
The two years since the law's passage have been spent hashing out the details. Lawmakers decided the state will grant three licenses for CBD production facilities, creating a fierce competition among bidding companies.
"There are, depending on who you talk to, upwards of 40 or more applicants for three licenses at this point," Bier said. "There are folks who are coming in from out of state, people from in state, and everybody wants to get their hands on one of these licenses because Texas is a big potential market."
Bier said if Green Well gets the green light, the company plans to buy a 15,000 square foot facility in far north Houston. It would take several months to build it out to the necessary specifications and, depending on how production goes, he estimates the company could be selling CBD oil by the end of the year.
"Now these folks who have intractable epilepsy won't have to go to other states in order to get their medicines," he said.
Besides the competition, the startup costs are also intimidating. The licensing fee itself is $488,000 and doesn't include the application fees and employee registration, which Bier says drives the cost up to about half a million dollars.
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