State health officials could soon confiscate one of the few cannabis products that Texans can find on store shelves.
The Department of State Health Services is considering a proposal that would require inspectors to detain all food products and cannabis oils that have added cannabidiol, a cannabis compound that’s used as a treatment for epilepsy and other medical conditions. It is a different compound than tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound that creates a high.
If the state agency approves the policy, retailers will be required to ship products back to the manufacturer or supplier, destroy them or surrender them to the agency. The move would not apply to products such as hemp oil, which has naturally occurring CBD.
A dispute over the policy is the latest clash between state officials and Texas cannabis companies, which are eager to see the state loosen marijuana laws. And it adds another layer of complexity for entrepreneurs looking to open or expand cannabis businesses in Texas.
The health department drafted the new inspection protocol after noticing more foods and dietary supplements that had the cannabis compound as an additive, said Lara Anton, a spokeswoman for the agency. Anton said the written policy would formalize the rules, not change them. She said the state agency is simply upholding federal law, which classifies the cannabis compound as a controlled substance.
Industry groups are pushing back, arguing that the products aren’t dangerous, that the policy would be impossible to enforce and that elected officials, not state agencies, should make the rules.
In a statement, the Texas Cannabis Industry Association described the policy as “a blow to the liberty of thousands of Texans who choose hemp-CBD as a general wellness product and rely on it for the natural treatment of serious medical conditions.”
The agency has rarely cracked down on the products, which are sold at wellness clinics, chiropractic clinics and even smoothie shops. It has detained CBD products between three and five times, Anton said.
Patrick Moran, a McKinney resident and one of the founders of the Texas Cannabis Industry Association, said the state would be going from “zero to 100” if it clears the shelves. “They have no previous standing whatsoever,” he said. “This is not a clarification. This is the first shot fired.”
Moran also said the rule would be unenforceable, because it would require state inspectors to confiscate products from hundreds of retailers.
Connor Oakley, legislative director the Medical Cannabis Association of Texas, said the organization supports independent, third-party testing of the products as a safety measure.
More than 4,000 people have signed a petition opposing the proposed policy. The state cannabis industry group has collected more than 100 letters from Texans who have used the cannabis oil to help them cope with cancer, chronic pain and other medical conditions, Moran said.
As states across the country legalize medical and adult use of marijuana, Texas has held on to strict marijuana laws. The state has approved one exception: cannabis oil for patients with intractable epilepsy.
In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Texas Compassionate Use Act, which allows companies to cultivate cannabis, turn it into CBD oil and sell it to epilepsy patients who get recommendations from two doctors.
Three companies have gotten state licenses through the Compassionate Use program. They began selling and distributing CBD oil to patients in early 2018.