“Life changing” is just one word Morris Denton, CEO of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation (TOCC), uses to describe the results of medical cannabis. From young children with intractable epilepsy to adults with ALS, patients all over Texas are benefitting from the state legislature’s decision to make medical cannabis more accessible.
In June, the Texas Legislature expanded the scope of medical cannabis through the Texas Compassionate Use Program by adding a broader set of qualifying conditions. The act was expanded to include all forms of epilepsy and other seizure disorders, autism, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, ALS, terminal cancer, as well as other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and more.
Today, medical cannabis is growing in availability and access in the Lone Star state with the help of TOCC, one of three licensees in Texas able to produce prescription medical cannabis. As the only Texas-based licensee, TOCC has a dispensary outside of Austin, a temporary distribution site in Houston where patients can pick up their medicine, and delivery services for patients throughout the entire state of Texas.
From the first seeds to a final product, TOCC formulates its medicine in-house and works collaboratively with patients and doctors to supply safe, legal access to medical cannabis. Here, Denton shares some of the biggest milestones, misconceptions, and benefits of medical cannabis in Texas.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions you hear about the medical cannabis industry?
Well, number one is that medical cannabis is for getting high. It’s not; it’s for getting healthy. We have a lot of patients that are veterans, adults with families, professionals, and people that want to keep a clear head. They're not interested in getting high. They just want to get relief from whatever the symptoms are that are troubling them.
Number two: That it’s difficult to get a prescription for. It’s not; you just have to find the right doctor.
Three: That it’s exorbitantly expensive. It’s not on a pure objective metric. It’s incredibly inexpensive compared to all the other pharmaceutical drugs out there. It’s just that medical cannabis isn’t subsidized by insurance. Compare it to all of the other pharmaceuticals out there, our medicine is often a 10th of the price.
From daily capsules to flavored lattes, CBD is a huge wellness industry trend. What are your thoughts on locally sold, consumer CBD?
[A misconception is] that our medicine is exactly like the consumer CBD stuff you can buy at a corner drug store, but it’s dramatically different. [Our medicine] has twice the amount of THC. It’s of a consistency, purity, and quality that the other consumer CBD just doesn’t match at this point in time. There is no state nor federal regulatory authority over the consumer CBD space. It’s "caveat emptor"—let the buyer beware. There’s a lot of product out there that is really expensive snake oil.
What are some of the reasons why patients may want to consider medical cannabis over pharmaceutical drugs?
Whatever individuals decide to do, they need to do it in concert and in consultation with their doctor. Generally speaking, the rationale for trying medical cannabis over a pharmaceutical is that medical cannabis is a more natural form of medicine. It’s derived from a plant, produced without chemicals in a hydrocarbon-free environment, and tested and approved for consumption. The side effects are very minor and light when compared to the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
What success stories stand out to you?
Julia Patterson, who is a 16-year-old girl, started having seizures when she was five and for 10 years would have hundreds of seizures a day. She couldn’t go to a normal school, she couldn’t go to summer camp, she couldn’t have sleepovers at her friends’ houses, and she couldn’t do things independently of her parent’s care. Her life was defined by what she couldn’t do. That was so punitive in my mind.
She was on every medication possible, considered different surgeries, and had almost run out of options. When we met her, she was on five or six different anti-seizure medications and on several other medications to help with the side effects. Now that she’s started on our oil, she’s been seizure-free for more than a year and has come off all of her other medications.
She’s in a normal school, she’s in National Honor Society, she’s a page during the legislature on the Senate floor, she’s applying to colleges, she’s dreaming big, and she even has her driver’s license because she qualified by being seizure-free for the required year. This is all because of this plant and our ability to turn it into medicine.
What do you want Houstonians to know most about the medical cannabis industry?
This plant does have a lot of benefits to a lot of people. Every individual needs to take responsibility for their own health, right? No one is going to do it for you. Don’t be afraid to equip yourself with information and arm yourself with knowledge to get educated about what medical cannabis can do. Then bring that information to your next doctor’s visit. Have that conversation.
Do you know someone living with a condition covered by the Texas Compassionate Use Program? Equip them with the knowledge they need to find help and share TOCC. For more information about Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation, their products, and doctor referrals, visit texasoriginal.com.