Fort Worth

Speakers highlight mental, medical benefits of marijuana at annual Fort Worth march

Hundreds of people marched from Burnett Plaza to the Tarrant County Courthouse on Saturday as part of a call to legalize marijuana in Texas.

The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — organizes the annual DFW Marijuana March in Fort Worth. NORML is a grassroots nonprofit that supports the legalization of marijuana.

At Burnett Park, vendors sold smoking accessories and apparel. At 2 pm., attendees walked through downtown to the courthouse. Police officers escorted them through the streets, blocking off intersections and biking alongside the marchers.

On the steps of the courthouse, various speakers addressed roughly 500 people about responsible marijuana use, the medical benefits of CBD oil and cannabis, and marijuana decriminalization.

Lisa Sewell, the director of finance for NORML, said cannabis helps her husband, who is HIV positive, with his symptoms and lets her mom, who has cancer, better deal with chronic pain.

Sewell said advocacy groups and lobbyists in Austin help educate legislators who may not understand the benefits of medical cannabis or know the difference between CBD and THC. CBD is non-psychoactive, which means it will not give the user a high, as THC does.

“The more education we get to them, the better. Period,” Sewell said. She said she has seen politicians become more open to legislation that would legalize marijuana, such as recent bills that have passed in the Texas House.

One of those bills is House Bill 1365, which would increase the number of dispensaries in the state from three to 12 and add a longer list of qualifying conditions.

Aaron Gutknecht said he has seen the growth of the movement to legalize marijuana firsthand. In 2009, when he attended his first marijuana meeting, there were only about 20 people.

More than half of the Texas’ registered voters believe marijuana should be legalized, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Gutknecht also said marijuana can help people overcome addictions.

Annie Epley spoke at the DFW Marijuana March on Saturday in Fort Worth. Kaley Johnson

“To me, it was an exit drug. Because alcohol had taken me down, and (marijuana) really helped me a lot,” he said. “I laugh at the argument when people say it’s a gateway drug.”

Annie Epley, who lives in Kemp, said marijuana helped her overcome her anxiety and stress disorder. She shared a poem with the crowd about her experience as an advocate, a patient and a mother. After she spoke, people, some of whom were crying, walked over to hug her.

“My goal was to move the crowd and empower the crowd, and I think we accomplished that,” she said.

Epley’s 14-year-old daughter, Nicole, said she was proud of her mom and hopes to see the legalization of marijuana in her lifetime.

“To me, (marijuana) is not bad. It’s not what some people make it out to be,” she said. “If it’s curing people, it should be legal and keep saving lives. “

Annie Epley and her daughter, Nicole, 14, attended the DFW Marijuana March on Saturday in Fort Worth. Kaley Johnson