AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Can the the opioid crisis be dealt with head on if there’s expanded medical marijuana use? That’s the topic of a South by Southwest panel in Austin Tuesday, exploring what that would look like and whether it would be effective here in Texas.

Opioid use is a big talker right now, in light of a recent uptick in overdoses in Austin. Officials have warned this impacts the entire state as they haven’t pinpointed where the drugs are coming from.

Texas lawmakers are currently researching the impact of fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths in the state, looking into ways to best deal with opioid abuse.

Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation Dispensary is one of few in the entire state of Texas.

The CEO of the company, Morris Denton, said in the past six months, they’ve seen about 10,000 people get approved for medical cannabis use.

“We have patients as young as two months and as old as 98,” Denton said.

In 2021, his company partnered with a third-party company, Nucleus One, to research how it’s impacting communities.

“One of the quickest ways to address the opioid crisis, so allow people that are suffering from pain to have an alternative and that alternative should be medical cannabis,” Denton said.

According to the study’s data, 41% of opioid users across the country reported a decreased need to use when having cannabis as an alternative. 

Former journalist Ricardo Baca said most research comes from anecdotal experiences.

“Today, cannabis remains federally illegal such as schedule one drug, a nonsensical classification that is making top-tier medical research nearly impossible,” Baca said.

Leading the panel at SXSW Tuesday, he shed light on certain legislative changes that might be necessary to make more progress in helping reduce addiction.

“The primary measure of a medical cannabis infrastructure is looking at the qualifying conditions,” Baca said. “What does that state allow for the qualifying condition for you to get a cannabis card? And right now and in Texas, it’s immensely limited.”

In 2021, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did expand the low THC program to include people with post traumatic stress disorder and also raised the THC cap on medical cannabis to 1%.

Marijuana attitudes have changed enough in Texas that this could play out in the race for governor. We profiled it at the start of the year. Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, has already stated he’s for legalization. Abbott has said jails and prisons are not for those caught.