More Marijuana In Texas? Why That Question Is Lighting Up Republicans

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What’s red, white, blue — and green — all over?

This year it’s the Republican State Convention.

Thousands of Republicans gathering here this week for their every-other-year state convention are tackling issues ranging from abortion to guns.

And marijuana.

At this most conservative gathering — where many delegates proudly wear their red, white and blue — some are calling for medical marijuana to be available to more Texans.

“Texas has a very narrow medical marijuana program,” said Heather Fazio, coalition coordinator with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, which is hosting a pancake breakfast for Republicans and working with the Texas Cannabis Caucus for Democrats. “Many delegates, just as many Texans, want to see it as more inclusive.”

Some want a proposed expansion of the law added to the Republican Party’s platform, an outline of party beliefs that candidates do not always follow and are not bound by, which will be voted on Saturday.

Opponents stand ready to fight any expansion of the law known as the Compassionate Use Program, which lets some Texans with intractable epilepsy use low-THC cannabis oil. Lawmakers have stressed this is a limited form of medical marijuana that does not include THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high.

Other forms of marijuana use, either medical or recreational, remain illegal in Texas. But it is legal, in one form or another, in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

Still more want to be able to legally grow and cultivate hemp — for everything from food to material — in Texas.

All this comes after President Trump said he may support a bipartisan congressional effort to ease the U.S. ban on marijuana.

Here’s a look at some of the marijuana requests at the GOP state convention.

Expand the law: Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition want medical marijuana available to more Texans. Mark Zartler of Richardson said his 18-year-old daughter suffered from severe seizures until he began using marijuana oils and vapor treatments on her. He said he has seen such a difference and now his daughter isn’t hurting herself or anyone else. “It’s illegal and he could go to prison,” said Jennifer Martinez, a Wimberly woman with the group. “If people support our personal freedoms, then there should be change.” They want the issue added to the party platform and passed into state law.

Fight legalization: Patricia Silva-Duran is telling delegates how addictive marijuana is, so much so that her 20-year-old daughter was hooked. Her daughter, Madeleine, is now headed to court-ordered rehabilitation because she couldn’t stay away from the drug she has used since she was 15. Silva-Duran, with Texans Against Legalizing Marijuana, said marijuana is much more addictive than it was in the past. “If it is legal, (Madeleine) would want to start using again,” Silva-Duran said. She pointed out that a 2017 National Academy of Sciences study indicates “marijuana is addictive and harmful.”

Allow it for autism and epilepsy: Michelle Walker moved her family to Colorado from San Antonio last year so her 10-year-old son, Vincent, would have access to medical cannabis to treat his severe autism and epilepsy. She said daily oils and edibles help — and nasal sprays stop his seizures. “Medical cannabis has helped him,” said Walker, who founded Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, who would like to move back to Texas. She wants the Compassionate Use Program to include any type of epilepsy and autism. “There needs to be more options and there are so many people left out,” she said. Walker wants to see a change in the GOP platform and then in Texas law.

Let hemp be grown in Texas: Coleman Hemphill, president of the Texas Hemp Industries Association, said there’s already a plank in the platform calling for industrial hemp cultivation. He’d like to see that turned into law in Texas during next year’s legislative session. “You can’t get high on hemp,” he said, noting that hemp can be used for seeds to material that can benefit Texans. And allowing this industry to grow in Texas could bring the state a big ecological and economic impact, Hemphill said.