Baby steps for legalizing marijuana


Twenty three states allow medicinal use of marijuana.
Twenty three states allow medicinal use of marijuana. AP

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy launched a campaign Wednesday hoping to bring awareness to veterans’ need for responsible marijuana use for service-related injuries.

The campaign, named “Operation Trapped,” aims to “collect a single used prescription bottle from every state veteran who wants a safer alternative” and present the collection of bottles at a news conference on Veterans Day 2016 in Austin.

The coalition includes multiple chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and other groups.

This campaign casts a new light on a much bigger topic that NORML represents: moving public opinion “sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.”

Currently, only four states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana use, but 23 states allow medicinal use of marijuana. Texas isn’t one of them.

But Texas NORML and partners are trying to baby-step their way toward allowable marijuana. They’re looking for moves that will be tolerable for even the conservative, Tea Party-influenced Legislature.

Focusing on approachable topics like veterans’ healthcare and using them to educate the public on responsible cannabis use is a smart way for the organization to approach its goals.

And it is working.

This year, the use of cannabis oil as treatment for intractable epilepsy was made legal, although the Legislature stressed this was a tiny allowance of medicinal marijuana use.

“This is kind of like the difference between grape juice and wine,” state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, a nurse who helped write the Texas Compassionate Use Act, told the Star-Telegram. “And we are legalizing grape juice.”

Also this year, House Bill 507, which would have changed the punishment for minor marijuana possession (one ounce or less) from a criminal to a civil offense, passed the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee 4-2. But the bill didn’t reach the full House before the session ended.

That bill is dead, but there’s creeping change in the movement toward responsible use of marijuana.