The new medical cannabis dispensaries in Texas have persevered despite high state licensing fees, a rigid regulatory environment and prospects for a severely restricted customer base.
But just as they’re harvesting their first crops and working to bring initial medications to market, another hurdle is on the horizon — in the form of a pharmaceutical company’s experimental drug that’s derived from the same non-psychoactive marijuana extract the Texas dispensaries are producing and is targeted at some of the same patients.
The drug, called Epidiolex and manufactured by London-based GW Pharmaceuticals, could win approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as soon as this summer and by the fall could be available for sale nationwide, including in Texas. If so, it would be the first prescription drug derived from marijuana to get the green light from the FDA, and industry experts say it likely would be covered by medical insurance.
Epidiolex is comprised of purified cannabidiol — a cannabis extract that doesn’t make people high — and it is intended as a treatment for patients with certain rare forms of epilepsy.
The three medical cannabis dispensaries licensed in Texas — Compassionate Cultivation, Cansortium Texas and Surterra Texas — also are producing cannabidiol, known as CBD, as their primary extract. They are only allowed by state law to sell it to patients suffering from rare forms of epilepsy and under a doctor’s direction.
The upshot is the potential for strong competition for the Texas dispensaries just as they’re gaining their footing, even