TOCC Advocates Alternative Program Amid Opioid Death Surge

A Texas medical cannabis provider says it will continue advocating for an opioid alternative program amid an increase in opioid-related deaths.

Manchaca-based Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation (TOCC) points to a Nucleus One report showing that Texas and other states saw a dramatic rise in overdoses during the first year of the COVID-19 outbreak.

There has been a significant increase in opioid-related deaths in the past year.

A Texas medical cannabis provider is advocating cannabis as an alternative to opioids.

Texas, where medical cannabis access is limited, witnessed a 35 percent increase in opioid-related deaths.

According to the report, the continuing opioid epidemic costs Texas $20 billion each year and causes thousands of deaths.

A 2019 report published by San Francisco VA Medical Center researchers showed that cannabis might serve as an effective alternative to opioids.

According to the report, which involved 9,003 respondents, of the five percent who reported using cannabis over the past year, 41 percent reported a decrease or cessation of opioid use.

Forty-six percent reported no change, and eight percent reported an increase in opioid use.

The most common reasons for substitution were better pain management (36 percent), fewer side effects (32 percent), reduced withdrawal symptoms (26 percent), lower costs (13 percent), and more social acceptance (13 percent).

A Continuing Crisis

Nucleus One partner Connor Yost says the opioid crisis is taking a continued physical, emotional, and economic toll on Texas families and communities.

“It’s a very real and devastating public health issue,” says Yost. “Establishing opioid alternative programs that include increased access to medical cannabis has proven to reduce opioid addiction in other U.S. states. With an expanded medical cannabis program, Texas could yield $820 million in annual savings due to improved healthcare outcomes and costs while significantly reducing opioid overdose deaths.”

Affecting Change Through Legislation

TOCC CEO Morris Denton says that Texas House Bill 1535, though not comprehensive, would be of some help.

House Bill 1535 would establish compassionate-use institutional review boards to study medical cannabis and allow patients with certain medical conditions to use low-THC cannabis.

“House Bill 1535 is certainly a step in the right direction, but it does not accomplish nearly enough to help those seeking an alternative to opioids,” says Denton. “While other states are busy implementing sophisticated medical cannabis programs and tackling the country’s opioid epidemic, more than 1 million Texans continue to misuse prescription pain relievers because they are prohibited from accessing alternatives.”

Denton says if elected officials do not embrace the power of medical cannabis, thousands of Texans will die needlessly from ineffective treatments.

The Texas legislature will reconvene for a special session on July 8 to vote on legislation that Governor Greg Abbott (R) has deemed critical to state interests.

House Bill 1535 initially proposed setting the THC limit at five percent and added chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions, but the Texas Senate reduced the cap to one percent and removed chronic pain.

The Senate did not propose an opioid alternative program, potentially prolonging the opioid crisis.

Denton says that TOCC is fully capable of providing Texans in need with quality, effective medicine.

“We stand ready to end opioid dependence in the state of Texas,” says Denton. “We hope the legislature is ready to have meaningful conversations about building aand deploying an opioid alternative program that will save countless Texan lives.”