By Andrea Lucia


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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The first step toward legally growing marijuana in the state of Texas could come Thursday.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is scheduled to begin accepting applications for licenses to dispense low-THC cannabis under the state’s Compassionate Use Act.

The town of Gunter, Texas, fifty miles north of Dallas, may be among the first locations approved. A company called Aquiflow, has purchased the town’s old cotton gin with plans to start production.

“If it’s legal, I’m all for it,” said Mayor Pro Tem Larry Peters.

Peters said the facility will have tight 24 hour security. He hopes the extra tax revenue will also help the town buy a new fire truck and improve its infrastructure. “If this puts us on the map, so what? The biggest thing is it’s gonna help people,” he said.

In east Dallas, Patty Bates-Ballard’s son has intractable epilepsy, the only condition Texas has approved cannabis oil to treat.

“He’s taken all these and he still has seizures,” she said pointing to an array of medicine bottles.

She’s hoping the cannabis can replace some of the strong drugs he’s prescribed, which can come with unpleasant side effects.

“We’re really fortunate we’re one of the very few people who qualify for this law,” she said.

Bates-Ballard lobbied the Texas legislature for a more inclusive law, which would have allowed more uses and more forms of medical marijuana. State lawmakers worried, though, it would fall into the wrong hands, an idea that frustrates advocates.

“People who want to use it recreationally already are. The only people who are not getting access are those of us who are trying to abide by the law,” said Bates-Ballard.

The legislature did pass the law allowing limited use of low THC cannabis oil in 2015, but delayed access to the medication for two years, during which it worked to develop the program’s rules and a registry for doctors, patients, and dispensaries to use.

“Two years seemed like it was a long time to wait and now we’re coming up on that deadline, and I’m not even sure we’re going to make it,” said Bates-Ballard.

As of Wednesday night, the application for dispensaries was still not available online, and the Texas Department of Public Safety offered conflicting information on when it would be.

Bates-Ballard said some families have given up waiting and are risking arrest by already treating loved ones with illegally-obtained cannabis.

“People tell me sometimes, ‘What are you waiting for?’ And, I’m waiting for the doctor to be able to prescribe it, because I want a doctor’s guidance.”

Waiting isn’t easy, though.

“When you see him go into a seizure where he convulses so hard that he chews on his tongue,” said Bates-Ballard of her son, “You would not be patient, you would not put up with red tape, you would want to help him right that minute.”

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