They smell opportunity in Texas marijuana ‘green rush’

The businessman and attorney is positioning himself at the forefront of what he estimates will be a $900 million a year industry in Texas — the recently legalized market for treating intractable epilepsy with a strain of marijuana that eases seizures without getting patients high.

Texas, as it turns out, just may be one of the best states in the nation to grow pot. While the state has one of the most stringent medical usage laws in the country, it is setting up some of the cheapest licensing fees and one of the least restrictive markets for pot growers in the U.S.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation last year allowing the state to license businesses to grow, process or dispense non-intoxicating marijuana or cannabis for medical use beginning next year. Moran wants to do all three with Texas Cannabis, cultivating marijuana from seed to sale.

Moran is just waiting on the state to set up its registry, slated to go live by June 2017, to put in his application. He plans to use that former cotton gin, which has sat dormant for 40 years, to cultivate, extract and dispense cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, from low-THC cannabis plants — just around the corner from the city hall in Gunter. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive component that gives users a high when they smoke traditional marijuana.

At the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Dr. Gretchen Von Allmen, a pediatric neurologist specializing in epilepsy, said patients’ families ask her “every day” how soon low-THC cannabis will become available here.

“Most of them who are asking have already tried multiple anticonvulsant medications that are available, and their children are still having seizures,” said Von Allmen, who sees 50 to 100 epileptic children a week at her practice. “These families are very desperate for any other option.”

Some parents are giving their epileptic children CBD oil from companies in other states, such as Charlotte’s Web, Von Allmen said.

“We need to make sure that it’s being used safely and that it’s not affecting the child’s health otherwise,” said Von Allmen, chief of pediatric epilepsy at the health science center’s McGovern Medical School and director of the epilepsy monitoring unit at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

“We need to make sure that it’s being used safely and that it’s not affecting the child’s health otherwise,” said Von Allmen, chief of pediatric epilepsy at the health science center’s McGovern Medical School and director of the epilepsy monitoring unit at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

“There’s a whole other industry that is being birthed in this country, just like what happened with the dot-com boom,” Moran told the San Antonio Express-News. “I think it’s once in a lifetime.”

Altogether, 18 states have approved laws since 2014 allowing some form of CBD for patients with certain medical conditions. Under Texas’ new Compassionate Use Program, epilepsy patients whose seizures can’t be controlled by traditional medication will be allowed to take oil that is rich in CBD — a compound found in the marijuana plant believed to have therapeutic benefits for some medical conditions.

Altogether, 18 states have approved laws since 2014 allowing some form of CBD for patients with certain medical conditions. Under Texas’ new Compassionate Use Program, epilepsy patients whose seizures can’t be controlled by traditional medication will be allowed to take oil that is rich in CBD — a compound found in the marijuana plant believed to have therapeutic benefits for some medical conditions.

An estimated 149,000 to 160,000 Texans of all ages suffer from intractable epilepsy, which can be fatal. Around 40,000 of those patients are projected to benefit from the medication, according to the Texas Cannabis Industry Association.

An estimated 149,000 to 160,000 Texans of all ages suffer from intractable epilepsy, which can be fatal. Around 40,000 of those patients are projected to benefit from the medication, according to the Texas Cannabis Industry Association.

The potential for rapid growth is tremendous, as more and more states lift restrictions on marijuana use and sales and societal attitudes toward the drug relax. Legal cannabis markets nationwide are projected to yield $7.1 billion in sales in 2016, a 54 percent jump from $4.6 billion since 2014, according to a report released in February by ArcView Market Research and New Frontier Data.

By 2020, legal sales nationally are projected to reach more than $22 billion, more than triple the amount forecast for this year, the report states.

“No other industry in this country is making the kinds of gains year-over-year that the cannabis industry is making,” said Dr. Scott Bier, an emergency room physician in Houston who is CEO of Green Well Ventures, another private company aiming to be among the state’s first licensed cannabis operations. “And it’s just going to get bigger … Everybody wants to get a little piece of it.”

“No other industry in this country is making the kinds of gains year-over-year that the cannabis industry is making,” said Dr. Scott Bier, an emergency room physician in Houston who is CEO of Green Well Ventures, another private company aiming to be among the state’s first licensed cannabis operations. “And it’s just going to get bigger … Everybody wants to get a little piece of it.”