Current Events

Talking to Compassionate Cultivation, One of the First Medical Marijuana Companies in Texas

Qualifying patients in Texas will soon be able to get low-THC cannabis-based medicines. Above, a close-up photo of a cannabis plant.
Qualifying patients in Texas will soon be able to get low-THC cannabis-based medicines. Above, a close-up photo of a cannabis plant. Photo by Martijn/Flickr
Under the Compassionate Use Act, Texas’s new medical marijuana program, the Texas Department of Public Safety is licensing three companies to provide low-THC cannabis-based medicines to people with untreatable epilepsy. Compassionate Cultivation is one of them. Based in Manchaca, south of Austin, the company planted cannabis in November and plans to have medicine by early 2018, according to a news release.

Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation, took time out of his schedule to talk to Houston Press. The Press previously interviewed Denton for our in-depth look at criticisms of the program. “I thought the last article you wrote was pretty one-sided and biased and shitty,” he said. “If this is just more fuel for whatever bias and fire you’re trying to build, I’m not real interested.”

This interview has been edited for style and clarity.

Tell us about your company.
Compassionate Cultivation is a Texas-based company. We come from a diverse set of backgrounds, ranging from attorneys and entrepreneurs to executives, oil-and-gas guys and consumer packaged goods.

A lot of companies wanted this. There were over 40 applicants for only three licenses. What set you apart?
We pulled together an extraordinary team with significant experience. We had the expertise DPS was looking for. We were very thorough in the application process. I’ve completed a number of government-oriented applications in the past, so I’m familiar with their depth and comprehensive nature.

What kinds of medicines will you provide? All tinctures, or also some edible products?
We haven’t made a final decision yet. The majority will be tinctures. Our Chief Medical Officer feels that’s the most effective way to give medicine to people suffering from intractable epilepsy. We may end up creating a few other products, whether those are pills or capsules or edibles. We’ll make that determination as we get closer to having medicine available.

Compassionate Cultivation announced in a news release it’d name a strain after Stephanie Klick, the main sponsor of the Compassionate Use Act. What strains will you be using?
We’ll probably end up testing out between five and ten different strains. Then, we’ll focus on a few of those — the ones we think can produce the right kind of plant material to produce a low-THC, high-CBD solution.

Tell us about your facilities.
We have a vertically-integrated facility. [NOTE: Under the Compassionate Use Act, all medical marijuana companies must be “vertically integrated,” meaning the same company grows, produces and sells medicine.] We have a warehouse we’ve customized. When we took possession of it, it was essentially four walls and roof. We were able to build it out to our exact specifications. Part of the facility is dedicated to our grow, cultivation and harvesting operations. Part of it is dedicated to extraction, processing, testing, manufacturing and packaging. Then, obviously, the dispensary will be a part of it as well.

How much is Compassionate Cultivation worth?
It’s hard to say since there’s no real market at this point. There are no patients or revenue yet. We have expenses from building our facility but we don’t have operational expenses that we can point to. So, it’s difficult to determine an exact valuation.

How many patients will you be able to accommodate?
We’ll be able to accommodate a large number. We’ll be able to satisfy significant demand. We can do that with our existing footprint, and we can expand, if necessary.

Can you give us a ballpark number?

Texas is a big state. How will people in far-flung places get medicine?
We’ll have to deliver it to them. We’re not allowed to have multiple dispensing locations. We’re allowed to set up temporary distribution centers where people in highly populated areas can come receive their medicine, but we aren’t allowed to have multiple retail storefronts.

It doesn’t matter if patients are in Dalhart or Del Rio or Tyler or any point in between. If there’s a patient that needs our medicine in the State of Texas, it’s our duty and our responsibility to get that medication to them in a timely manner.

Some critics contend the wording of the Compassionate Use Act exposes doctors to federal criminal liabilities. You’ve said you’re not worried about that.
No. Because I’ve talked to dozens of doctors, and not one of them has suggested they would have an issue with writing a prescription under the protections of the state law in Texas.

Where do you see your company — and the industry — in five years?
It’s hard to tell. It depends on what happens with the state regulations in Texas. If the state holds course, and continues to only allow patients with intractable epilepsy, then I think Texas will be a small player. If Texas expands and increases the number of conditions, then I think Texas could be a leader on a national scale.
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Stephen Paulsen is a journalist and native Houstonian. He writes about crime, food, drugs, urban planning and extremists of all kinds. He covers local news for Houston Press and cannabis policy for Leafly.