A record number of people decided to become a Texas Marijuana Card holder in 2021, thanks to the expansion of the state’s Compassionate Use Program (CUP).
That increase pleased those who previously had been ineligible for a Texas Marijuana Card, investors who are funding the growers and dispensaries that bring medicine to suffering Texans, and the vast majority of Texans, a majority that favors making medical marijuana available to those who need it. Besides that, expanding the program is likely to lead to lower costs at dispensaries.
So when we get excited questions about whether CUP will be expanded again this year, we say: We don’t know. We don’t have a crystal ball. And we think there is a better question to ask: Why wouldn’t CUP be expanded this year?
2021 CUP Expansion Leads to Record Participation
We told you back in November how the 2021 CUP expansion led to an immediate 33% monthly jump in enrollment, the first time that more than 1,000 patients received Texas Marijuana Cards in a single month.
But the growth didn’t stop there. CUP added a total of 8,191 new patients in the last four months of 2021, ending the year with almost twice as many cardholders as it began the year with. As of January of 2022, there were 18,000 Texas Marijuana Card holders, an increase of almost 500% over January 2021.
With success like that, it’s no wonder so many Texans were pleased when the 2021 expansion bill was passed and became law.
New Patients Benefited from CUP Expansion
Of course medical marijuana is all about bringing relief to the suffering, and so it's the new patients who could now get Texas Marijuana Cards who matter most.
Addition of PTSD to Qualifying Conditions Could Benefit Millions of Texans
The 2021 expansion saw terminal cancer patients and PTSD sufferers added to the list of qualified patients, meaning a whole lot of Texans last year found relief they otherwise wouldn’t have.
When one considers statistics related to PTSD and the problems with traditional PTSD medications, it becomes abundantly clear how cruel it was to deny sufferers Texas Marijuana Cards for so long.
Statistically speaking, more than 2,300,000 Texans are likely to suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, patients are often unsatisfied with the efficacy and side effects of available pharmaceutical treatments.
On the other hand, medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD, and cannabis’ side effects are generally minor and well tolerated.
Texans with Terminal Cancer Can Now Find Relief with Medical Marijuana
As for terminal cancer patients, medical marijuana can do nothing to prolong their lives. There is some exciting, early evidence that medical marijuana can slow the spread of cancer and perhaps even shrink cancerous tumors, but of course terminal is terminal.
However, medical marijuana can do a whole lot to relieve the suffering of terminal cancer patients and improve the quality of the life they have left in a number of ways.
Cancer patients often deal with depression. Fortunately, medical marijuana use has been shown to significantly reduce patients’ reports of depression. One especially encouraging study reported that “the vast majority of patients that use cannabis experience antidepressant effects.” Furthermore, the researchers found that the study participants reported an average of an almost 40% reduction in depression symptoms mere moments after using medical marijuana. In contrast, it can take weeks or even months for traditional antidepressants to show results.
Cancer patients often endure excruciating pain that can be so severe that many patients turn to opiate-based pharmaceuticals such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. Unfortunately, these medications can cause significant side effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and respiratory depression.
Medical marijuana, on the other hand, can be an effective replacement for more dangerous painkillers. Cannabis relieves pain by blocking signals to the brain’s pain receptors, and medical marijuana it is an anti-inflammatory, so it reduces the inflammation that causes many kinds of pain. Put another way, marijuana can treat pain both by blocking the brain’s perception of it and by addressing the underlying causes of it.
2021 CUP Expansion Seen as Boon to Cannabis Businesses
Morris Denton, CEO of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation, another of the state’s three licensed marijuana providers, told Austin Business Journal that September’s spike in enrollment was a “shot in the arm,” but said that Texas’ medical marijuana market remains underdeveloped. “It’s good expansion, but it's not game-changing expansion,” Denton told the Business Journal. “We view the market at still being a small market. If you look at it objectively and compare to any other market that’s out there — 11,000 patients for a state as large as Texas objectively is very, very small.”
But the Austin Business Journal reports that the limited number of licensed providers here gives the state “near-unlimited upside,” and Scott Greiper of the cannabis investment firm Viridian Capital Advisors told the Journal in August that Texas is “an extremely attractive state for investors and acquirers” due to its large population and limited existing competition.
So the CUP expansion was not only good for suffering Texans, but it stimulated business growth and investments, such as a new $25 million cultivation, production, and retail facility in San Marcos and a new 95,000 square foot facility in Bastrop back in August.
Texans Favor Less Restrictive Access to Medical Marijuana
Even after the CUP expansion took effect, advocacy groups and Texas citizens protested loudly in 2021 that it wasn’t enough.
Shawn Meredith, of Austin, spoke with the Fort Worth Weekly about his reason for participating in a July Fort Worth protest. Meredith suffered a spinal cord injury in 1984, and has since found cannabis is the only medicine that relieves his symptoms. Unfortunately, he says the cannabis he can get through CUP just doesn’t do enough to help.
“Every state around Texas has a legit medical cannabis program,” Meredith said, “but here I have to drink a cup of oil just to get less than 1% THC. I can go get legal hemp flower with similar amounts of THC at the store around the corner from my house for less money than the Compassionate Use program.”
“Cannabis has a distinct and potent ability to alleviate pain,” Melanie Adams, a medical cannabis activist and another July protestor, told Fort Worth Weekly. “It’s a matter of moral and ethical responsibility to make sure that all chronically ill patients that can benefit from this plant have access to it, not just the limiting conditions that Texas has determined based on politics and not science.”
And the Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy director Heather Fazio told MSN “While we are glad to see the Compassionate Use Program being expanded, it’s disappointing to see Texas inching forward while other states, like Alabama for example, are moving forward with real medical cannabis programs.”
CUP Expansion was a Massive Success, but There is More to Do
Is CUP going to expand again in 2022? We have no idea. But we do know that patients benefited from the expansion, and would like to see the program continue to expand. And we know that Texas businesses benefited, meaning the entire state did. So we don’t know if CUP will expand again in 2022, but we think that it should.
If you agree, we think you should do two things right away. First, let your state representatives know how you feel about Texas’ overly restrictive medical marijuana program. Second, support the cause by finding out if you qualify for a Texas Marijuana Card, and get one if you do.
Reserve an evaluation online today with one of our qualified, compassionate doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as we’re cleared to.
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually, using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. Together you’ll discuss your qualifying condition and how you might benefit from medical marijuana, all without leaving your home. You’ll even save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
At Texas Marijuana Card, our goal is to help everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.