TMC professionals work to create medical cannabis

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - The Texas Compassionate Use Program is about a year away from licensing dispensing organizations for medical cannabis.

Thursday, state lawmakers, physicians and scientists met with Vyripharm Biopharmaceuticals at the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute.

Elias Jackson of Vyripharm said his company has the technology to make sure high quality standards are maintained throughout the process of growing, distributing and use of medical cannabis.

"As you well know, Texas is slated to be one of the largest, if not the largest, medical cannabis programs with the Compassionate Use Program. That's going to open the door for a lot of snake-oil salesmen," Jackson said. "What Vyripharm has done is establish a complete, comprehensive system that would be able to weed out any type of contaminant."

Researchers from every major hospital attended Thursday's presentation with specific studies on medical marijuana in mind, from seizures and PTSD to psychiatric disorders and cancer. Although, not all for the supposed benefits you might assume.

Richard Ford, an MD Anderson professor of pathology, said his research is looking at the changes cannabis has on tumor cells.

"[Cannabinoids have] important medicinal qualities, some of which we've known for years but more recently are just being discovered in human tumors, particularly the ones we work on ... particularly non-Hodgkin lymphomas," Ford said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration decided last week it would not loosen restrictions, claiming cannabis is unsafe and has no medical benefit.

Ford said they are optimistic about the direction cannabis studies are headed. He said the DEA realizes "we're not interested in selling recreational drugs at all."

Vyripharm says the resistance from the feds will only strengthen their long-term goal.

"I look at it as the DEA starting to open the door for research," Jackson said.

So, while federal agencies are leaving marijuana in the most restrictive category for controlled substances, Texas medical professionals move forward with setting standards for the drug, which could soon be accessible to patients.

The Texas Compassionate Use Act was signed by Gov. Abbot last year. It requires DPS to license at least three dispensing organizations by Sept. 1 of next year.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2