Can this type of medical cannabis save lives?
Despite a stop sign from the chief Tarrant County prosecutor, cannabidiol (CBD oil) sellers say they will go to jail and then to court if necessary to keep selling their products.
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office released a statement this week saying that possession of CBD oil is legal only for those who suffer from intractable epilepsy and follow the rules of the Texas Compassionate Use Act.
Others buying or selling CBD oil are breaking the law, according to District Attorney Sharen Wilson.
Trey Phillips, a former Fort Worth police officer who is now a CBD oil retailer at the Thrive Apothecary store in Fort Worth, said he has several police officers who purchase CBD oil at his store.
His law enforcement customers are worried because they have been prohibited by the Fort Worth Police Department from having CBD oil, a substance they use as an alternative medicine for pain and the mental stresses that accompany their work, Phillips said.
Other customers have told him the benefits of the product outweigh the concern that they could be arrested, Phillips said.
“We’re going to stay open and continue to serve our customers,” Phillips said. “Our customers who come in say they don’t care what the district attorney says and they say they need the product.”
CBD oil has been shown to have a positive effect on some patients suffering from epilepsy, and there are indications that it has positive effects for some suffering from insomnia, social anxiety disorder, Parkinson’s disease and may help some people quit smoking, according to Medline Plus, a health information website run by the federal government.
Given the potential good CBD oil can do for some patients and the confusion about the law in Texas and how it conflicts with federal law, Wilson sounds like she is out of touch, Phillips said.
“We have contacts from all over Texas and it seems like Wilson is an outlier,” Phillips said. “Tarrant County has demonized marijuana laws, and the Texas Legislature has not kept pace with the available technology.”
Wilson’s office declined to comment Thursday.
The Dallas County district attorney has no plans to pursue CBD oil cases, according to a statement from the DA’s office. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said it evaluates cases individually based on evidence presented by police agencies. A spokesman for the Galveston County DA’s Office said he wasn’t aware of any cases being filed there dealing with CDB oil.
“We had one instance where a shop was selling lip balm with it in there,” said Kevin Petroff, first assistant in the DA’s office in Galveston. “The shop owner didn’t understand it was selling something illegal, so they just stopped selling it and there was no criminal prosecution.”
Although Phillips said he does not believe his store will be raided and his CBD oil seized, being arrested is a possibility that he has considered.
“We’ve formulated a plan in case that happens,” Phillips said.
Also, Wilson’s take on the law has caused police officers to be wary about purchasing a product that is illegal in Texas but legal under federal law, Phillips said. Wilson’s interpretation of the law has also concerned at least one school district, Phillips said.
Mansfield School District officials sent out an email to parents Tuesday warning them that the use of e-cigarettes was becoming more popular with students.
The letter also said that any student caught on school grounds with an e-cigarette that tests positive for CBD could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. A student in possession of an e-cigarette that tests positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, could face felony charges.
Arrests at outlets that sell CBD oil are not likely too soon in Fort Worth, it appears. Police are gathering more information and conferring with officials in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office to determine the best path forward, according to Chris Britt, police department spokesman.
“Fort Worth police officials have issued a memo to officers informing them that these products are considered illegal if they contain THC,” Britt said. “For this reason our officers are not authorized to use them.”
He added: “As new products come out we have to determine how to address it. Some of our units will meet with the district attorney to decide what would be accepted by their office in order to make a good case.
“We don’t want to arrest a whole bunch of people who might be misinformed about the legality of these products,” Britt said. “We’ve talked to the people in the narcotics unit, and we will learn from them how we should best approach it.”
Emile Abdo, a pharmacist at Uptown Rx Pharmacy and Nutrition in Dallas where products containing CBD oil are sold, said he is not as worried about being arrested as he has heard some people in Tarrant County are, but he is concerned.
“I’ve thought about getting arrested,” Abdo said. “If necessary, it seems like this is something that could be successfully defended in court. The state seems like it’s on shaky ground.”
Many of his customers purchase CBD oils as an alternative to opioids, Abdo said. And Abdo stressed that he is coming at the question from a medicinal perspective and as a person who has researched the issue, not from the viewpoint of a vape shop owner or the owner of a head shop.
“If I can give them an alternative to using heroin that they have been buying off the street, why should I stop?” Abdo asked. “Customers have been coming in asking if it’s legal or not and people don’t really seem to care. I don’t get it. I thought everyone wanted people to get off opioids.”
Members of the advocacy group the Texas Cannabis Industry Association were shocked and outraged about the reports of Wilson’s interpretation of the law, said Patrick Moran, TCIA founding board member. Moran said purchasers of CBD oil products may have more to fear than the sellers in Texas.
The state’s compassionate use program, which Wilson said is the only legal avenue for CBD oil purchase, is a failure, Moran said. The large number of patients who are excluded from the compassionate use program are the consumer base for Tarrant County CBD oil retailers, according to Moran.
“She’s going after the consumers, the patients,” Moran said. “They are trying to corner and monopolize a CBD oil market that is exploding. This is the hill that the last of the prohibitionists have decided to die on. ”