AUSTIN -- The idea of Terry Keel filing a medical marijuana bill is like
Nixon going to China. Before it happened, no one could have imagined it. Mr.
Keel, a conservative Republican from Austin, is an ex-prosecutor and a
former Travis County sheriff.

He has been a field commander in the war on drugs.

A glance at the bills he has authored would make McGruff the Crime Dog pant.
Yet he is sponsoring a proposal to allow someone charged with marijuana
possession to offer the defense that it was recommended by a doctor for a
proven medical condition.

If a judge or jury believes such a defense, it would amount to an automatic
not guilty.

This bill doesn't legalize marijuana, but it makes its use legally
acceptable in narrow circumstances. Mr. Keel said three things made him
decide it was time for such a measure in Texas: cancer, constituents and
common sense. "I've become aware of the fact that it has medicinal effects
that are more beneficial than other treatments," Mr. Keel said. "It doesn't
make any sense to me to have heroin and amphetamine derivatives available,
but not [marijuana]. "It's time we use everything in our arsenal for pain
management," he said. Mr. Keel said if a liberal House member had introduced
such a bill, it probably wouldn't be taken so seriously.

But because he has arrested, investigated and prosecuted narcotics cases, he
said this bill shows you can still be tough on drugs but provide the justice
system some needed discretion. Mr. Keel laughed when asked the reaction of
his conservative colleagues to the bill. "Everything from shock to 'I'm glad
you had the courage to do it because no one else could do it,'" he said.


Newshawk: Rick D. Day, Texas NORML
Pubdate: Wed, 07 Feb 2001
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2001 The Dallas Morning News
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Author: Christy Hoppe