Veterans Rally for the Legalization of Medical Marijuana

Despite wide support among Texans for legalization, many of the state’s lawmakers remain opposed, even for medical use. Veterans say the drug helps them fight symptoms of PTSD, and are working to change minds at the capitol.

By Ryan PoppeFebruary 23, 2017 11:52 am,

From Texas Public Radio

Wednesday at the State Capitol veterans gathered at the Vietnam monument to rally for further legalization of medical marijuana.  A recent poll shows support throughout the state but Legislation appears to face opposition from key Republicans.  Some veterans say that’s resulted in their breaking the law to treat their health conditions.

Kate Cochran Morgan of Dallas served her country as a Navy corpsman.  She spent a year in Iraq as a field medic. The 33-year old says whenever she visits the state capitol to advocate for medical marijuana legislation she always ends the day with some silent-reflection at the Vietnam Memorial .

Morgan’s job in Iraq included checking on armed patrols in the field. Duties that led to her diagnosis of Anxiety with Attachment Disorder.

“The worst situation, I was involved in was rolling up on a rollover and that was pretty much horrific.  I had two people who had survived it and then I had someone who was dying on me and then also two people who were decapitated.  That will stick with me probably for the rest of her life, but it also taught me to keep moving” she says.

Morgan admits to using marijuana illegally to treat a psychological condition that showed up after her tour of duty. Morgan worries prescription medications have side effects and can lead to addiction.

Two years ago the legislature approved a medical marijuana bill that allows doctors to recommend a non-THC cannabis oil to patients with intractable epilepsy. The cannabis oil won’t get the patients high. But the program is still being implemented and the cannabis oil isn’t yet available in Texas.

This session state Senator Jose Menendez a San Antonio Democrat has filed a bill that would make medical marijuana available to additional patients. Menendez is frustrated  because his bill doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

““If the State of Texas said it was good for them to find relief and a doctor can do that, why, why are we picking diseases and patients.  Why don’t we let the doctors who have been to medical school decide” says Menendez.

So what’s the obstacle to expanding the use of medical marijuana in Texas?

The Democratic and Republican parties both support it in their platforms. A recent poll of Texans shows 83 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana, including medical marijuana.

“You know I don’t think it’s a good policy to go down.” says state Senator Charles Perry.

Perry, a Lubbock Republican, says he’s against expanding access to medical cannabis because he hasn’t seen double-blind studies that show it’s effective in treating certain medical conditions.

“As research developed, good research that’s backed by real data and studies, then there might be an opening down the road.  But I don’t see a happening in Texas on a new horizon” he says.

Perry is among the senators on a committee that’s preventing Menendez’s marijuana bill from moving forward.

But the measure faces even tougher opposition. The Governor’s office says that Governor Greg Abbott stands by his 2015 statement, saying that he would not allow the bill to become law.  Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who controls bills in the Senate refused to comment on the issue but told the Dallas Morning News in 2016 that he is opposed to the expansion of medical marijuana in Texas. And House Speaker Joe Straus has declined to comment on the issue.

Still, advocates like 61-year old Iraq War veteran David Bass aren’t giving up.  Bass was among the vets gathered at the capitol.

“The legislature slammed the door in our face in 2015, they might slam the door in our face in 2017 and we’ll be right back up here in 2019 advocating for a medical marijuana program because we’re not going to stop using cannabis” says Bass.

Across the nation, there are 28 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Bass says more than 1400 veterans have signed a letter that was delivered to Gov. Abbott. It says they’re using marijuana to treat psychological or physical conditions related to their military service, and they would like to be doing it legally.