AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday the state’s largest medical marijuana company expanded its gummy products to now include the highest dosage legally available, 20 mg, after Texas lawmakers approved changes to the state’s program in 2021.

During last year’s legislative session, state lawmakers approved slight increases into the percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, allowed in medical marijuana products. THC is the psychoactive compound of cannabis that gets users high.

Morris Denton is the CEO of Manchaca-based dispensary, Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation. He said the ability to make a stronger product will benefit their customers, which are largely made up of veterans and cancer patients. Lawmakers also expanded the medical marijuana program, Texas Compassionate Use, to include people with cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder in 2021.

“We needed to make a stronger product that would allow them to get to their target dose as prescribed by their doctor, without consuming a whole lot of byproducts,” Denton said.

Lawmakers only expanded the THC percentage allowed per products from .05% to 1%. Opponents had criticized increasing that number, out of fear it could lead to users getting addicted to the feeling of being high.

Denton called that a “mistake” that leads to patients needing more gummies, oils, etc. in order to get the desired effect of the prescription. He compared it to legislators hypothetically lowering the percentage of ibuprofen — the key pharmaceutical ingredient in medicine like Advil — allowed per capsule.

“Instead of you only taking two Advil to address your headache, you have to take twenty,” he said. “… If they want to put a restriction on the allowable amount of THC that a person can take on a daily or weekly basis, they should do that through putting a cap on the total amount of THC that a person can consume. Not by restricting how much how strong our product can be.”

Denton also worries more red tape around medical marijuana will lead consumers to obtain it through illegal means.

“We’ve got to ease the burden of the regulation so that people aren’t taking their own medical future into their hands,” he said.

Veteran Lance McCollum, who suffers from neuropathic issues, shares the same concerns. He was able to get a medical marijuana prescription under the state’s program, but actually obtaining his prescribed cannabis came with great difficulty.

McCollum said he had to drive hours to visit different doctors in the state, as there are limits on which physicians can prescribe medical marijuana. Each of those doctor consultations came with a price tag, costing him hundreds of dollars.

“It’s wonderful that the state is is expanding the medical use. On the downside, of course, it’s cost prohibitive. It’s very, very difficult to get,” he said. “How can it be ‘compassionate’ when they put up such economic barriers? It’s like … you’re starving to death, and they dangle food in front of you.”

McCollum said as someone who has been sober from alcohol for four decades, he had a difficult time being convinced to try medical marijuana but hasn’t found addictive qualities like in that of alcohol.

“I never met anyone who had problems with with drugs, whose first was first drug wasn’t through mom and dad’s liquor cabinet,” he said. “I was in a lot of pain … and here’s a natural plant and its derivatives that have helped me a great deal.”

Marijuana usage is legalized in more than a 18 states in America. It’s only fully illegal in four states. The federal government still classifies marijuana as Schedule I drug, which is defined as drugs with high potential for abuse.

According to a June 2021 poll from the Texas Politics Project/Texas Tribune, about 60% of Texans think small or large possession of marijuana for any purpose should be legal. Thirteen percent said it should not be legal under any circumstances.