23 June 2022 |

American patients quadruple, Houston welcomes cannabis store, and Aurora slashes workforce.

By Kaitlin Domangue

Houston welcomes 1st medical cannabis store​

Did y’all know Texas has a medical cannabis program? 

It’s extremely limited, but it exists. Texas’ Compassionate-Use Act was passed in 2015 for patients with intractable epilepsy. In 2019 and 2021, other conditions like cancer and PTSD were added to the list. 

Texas patients can only access low-THC cannabis, which means medical cannabis products can’t contain more than 1% of THC. It’s much different than the medical cannabis programs existing in other U.S. states. 

Houston’s first brick-and-mortar medical cannabis store just opened a few days ago. Austin-based Texas Original is the state’s largest medical cannabis provider and serves approximately 80% of Texas’ total medical cannabis patients. 

Now, Texas’ medical cannabis program is obviously not the program we wish to see. Cannabis containing no more than 1% THC is essentially what we categorize as hemp. 

However – as a native Houston, Texan turned Missourian (do you think I say y’all for fun?), I know that this was a big step for the Lone Star State. Not for regulators, but for the people of Texas to see medical cannabinoids in action. 

Texas Original’s CEO Morris Denton said, “One of our youngest patients is just two months old and one of our oldest is 98 years old. We serve veterans, cancer survivors, parents helping their children manage epilepsy, and so many more.” 

Seeing stories like this helps put things into perspective for people against medical cannabis, even if it is just 1% THC for now. 

While the Texas state government has always leaned towards the right (and thus has traditionally been “anti-dope”), Texas citizens are coming around. 

A poll from last month found that the majority of Texas voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes – 91% of Democrats, 85% of Independents, and 74% of Republican voters in Texas support legalizing medical cannabis. 

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

Texas’ Compassionate-Use Program is a stepping stone for a more robust medical cannabis program in the future. Traditionally, we have seen states baby-step their way towards full legalization and I think Texas will be part of that pack.

As of right now, cannabis is fully illegal in just four U.S. states – Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, and South Carolina. 

I believe it’s just a matter of time before we see more legislation coming out of Texas. 

Austin recently decriminalized cannabis after announcing in 2020 that the city’s police department wouldn’t be utilizing resources on low-level cannabis arrests, and several cities are set to vote on the same issue this November.

U.S. medical cannabis patients quadrupled​ in 4 years

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the number of medical cannabis patients in the United States quadrupled from 2016 to 2020. 

There were more than 2.97 million medical cannabis patients in the United States as of 2020, and we know that number will only go up as more and more states legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

Between 2016 and 2020, several states legalized medical cannabis, including Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Utah. 

Florida’s medical cannabis program, while limited, is huge, y’all.

The state recently surpassed more than 700,000 patients, more than doubling since the start of the pandemic. And they just legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2016. 

The quadrupling of American patients is a testament to just how important medical cannabis is for the U.S. and the world. Florida’s program alone gives us an idea of just how large some of these programs might become, especially considering entirely-untapped markets like Texas. 

Check out two of the most impactful quotes in support of medical cannabis: 

“Marijuana worked like a charm…the sheer bliss of not experiencing nausea — and then not having to fear it for all the days intervening between treatments — was the greatest boost I received in all my year of treatment, and surely had a most important effect upon my eventual cure.” – Stephen Jay Gould, American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science

“It is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana. We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.” – Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Neurosurgeon. 

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

I’m thinking: let’s. keep. the. momentum. going. Make medical cannabis an option for everyone.

Sometimes, I feel like a crazy person painting Big Pharma as some crazy industry trying to take down the cannabis world. But when you really stop and take a closer look – you can’t deny that’s exactly what’s going on. 

One report found that Big Pharma stands to lose $4 billion per year if cannabis is legalized nationwide in the United States. Pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories are among those donating millions of dollars to anti-cannabis campaigns. 

Medicare saved roughly $165 million in 2013, according to a study by the University of Georgia, because medical cannabis prescriptions for anxiety and chronic pain have dropped in legal states. 

So, let’s keep it going. Put the pressure on your lawmakers to make cannabis easily accessible to all. And in my opinion, that starts with dropping medical cannabis card requirements and renewal fees.

We are doing a great job already – let’s keep making. cannabis. available. 

Aurora slashes 12% of workforce​

Aurora Cannabis announced a 12% reduction in their workforce yesterday. 

The company didn’t say just how many employees this would be, but Wikipedia listed Aurora’s employees at 2,779 at one point, which would be approximately 333 employees using that figure. 

Aurora said this move is part of an effort to reduce costs by $70 to $90 million. 

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Aurora, understand that this company isn’t profitable. They’ve rarely been profitable and are hoping to be profitable by the first half of the 2023 fiscal year. 

Aurora is known as a financial disaster of a company, to be honest, y’all. 

They just closed several sites in March and some employees lost their jobs. In June and September 2020, Aurora laid off 700 30% of its production staff and 8% of its total workforce, respectively. 

Unlike other cannabis companies, Aurora isn’t citing the current economic status as a reason for laying off employees. 

Like the United States, there’s talk of a recession and economic turmoil in Canada as The Bank of Canada raises interest rates and the housing market cools sharply.

But Aurora’s problems appear to be Aurora’s and Aurora’s alone. The company has tried to steer itself on the path to profitability for several years, but it’s just not taking hold. 

The cannabis industry has seen its fair share of layoffs recently. Dutchie recently laid off 67 employees, Canopy Growth severed ties with 250 jobs in April, and Eaze laid off 25 employees in June – just to name a few.

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

The cannabis industry likes to talk about how we’re “recession-proof.” 

And while I think we weather the storm better than other industries like events or travel – I think recession-proof is a stretch. All industries are impacted by recessions. 

Our industry also has other factors to consider, like American operators being unable to file for bankruptcy. Every other industry gets that luxury in a recession – but we don’t. 

Even in Canada, where cannabis is federally legal, operators still have to pay high taxes and navigate complicated barriers to entry – making running a profitable business that much more challenging. 

Companies like Aurora have to grapple with the economy and the burdens that come with running a profitable cannabis company.