Ailing Odessan on Medical Marijuana: 'Just because I live in Texas, I can't get well?'

West Texas Senator Fights to Put New Marijuana Legislation On November Ballot

ODESSA, TX -- (Local 2/FOX 24) - Marijuana, pot, weed, bud. So many names, and according to some research, so many uses.

During the 2017 Texas legislative session, a west Texas senator filed two bills regarding legalizing marijuana. One for medicinal use, the other for recreational.

Come this November, he wants the people of Texas to decide its fate, but there is a long way to go before the issue makes it to the ballot.

While those against legalizing marijuana say the long term effects could be dangerous, Local 2's Rebecca Jeffrey spoke with one Odessa woman who says it could save her life.

"Just because I live in Texas, I can't get well?" Lydia Decker said.

Decker has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

"This is not how I imagined mid-life to be," she said as gestured to her nasal cannula.

She was diagnosed New Years Day, 2014. Since then, she's strapped to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The limitation is a motivation for her to help legalize marijuana in Texas.

 "If you don't want to have anything to do with it, fine. But don't deny somebody else that needs it, that wants that safe alternative option to pharmaceuticals," Decker said.

She and her husband created Genesis-129.org.

The pro-marijuana website features stories of healing, research and legislation, which they believe has a biblical backing.

The Bible Verse in the King James Version reads:

And God said, Behold I have given you ever herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. Genesis 1:29

"People say all the time, 'oh you talk about it like it's a miracle plant,' well, yeah, it is a little bit!" Decker said.

That idea, isn't growing on everyone.

Carrie Bronaugh with the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, or PBRCADA, finds the Schedule I drug is dangerous despite 28 states legalizing some form of cannabis.

"Marijuana is a drug like tobacco. It's a God plant. It was created from the ground. But when man touches it and puts the poisons and the pesticides and the things like that that we do, it becomes detrimental to our bodies in some cases," Bronaugh said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 users become addicted.

Marijuana can affect brain development, memory, attention and learning, as well as increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.

"Our concern is that 15 years down the line, marijuana is going to be just as detrimental as perhaps tobacco is right now, because the research hasn't caught up with it, we just don't know," she said.

"We're trying to do everything we can to bring Texas into the 21st century on this issue," Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez serves District 29, which includes Presidio and Jeff Davis counties.

 He filed Senate Joint Resolution bills 17 and 18 this session.

S.J.R 18 would put medical marijuana on the November ballot. S.J.R 17 would do the same for recreational.

"I think the time has come for the state of Texas to give serious consideration to the legalization of marijuana," Rodriguez said in a phone interview.

The state of Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use back in 2012.

Since then, it's seen as the "green standard" of weed legislation.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, early research finds marijuana DUIs rose 3 percent and emergency room visits due to marijuana exposure increased by nearly 30 percent.

The emergency room visits break down like this:
739 per 100,000 people before legalization to 956 per 100,000 after marijuana legalization.
 
However even the state department warns the information should be interpreted with caution, saying  "the decreasing social stigma regarding marijuana use could lead individuals to be more likely to report use..."

Back in Texas, Sen. Rodriguez finds the stigma surrounding pot in this conservative state will hold him back.

"There's plenty of special interest groups that are going to be opposed, but that's why I'm saying, let us at least have a rational discussion and debate about it and then let the voters decide," he said.

The most recent Texas Lyceum Poll found 50 percent of residents were against marijuana legalization, but 57 percent supported decriminalizing it.

In order for bills 17 and 18 to make it to the November ballot, there must be a hearing, then pass the Senate and House of Representatives. The bills would then be at the mercy of Governor Greg Abbott's pen. 

If he vetoes, it's back to square one. If he signs it, Texans will have their voice heard at the ballot box.

While Abbott is a staunch anti-drug supporter, last legislative session, he signed Senate Bill 339, Texas Compassionate Use Act.

The strict guidelines allow low-THC cannabis oil to help treat those with epilepsy. 

From Feb. 23 through March 23, the Texas Department of Public Safety is accepting applications for dispensing organization licenses.

S.B. 339 requires DPS to license at least three dispensaries by Sept. 1, 2017.

"We may find ourselves in a very small group of states that refuses to recognize reality," Sen. Rodriguez said.

But Decker feels Texas is already there.

"How many people die within that waiting time because they can't make up their mind?" she said.

While Sen. Rodriguez tells Local 2 his confidence is low for changes in 2017, he believes Texas will eventually loosen its legislation.

Local 2 conducted an unscientific opinion poll among our followers on Facebook.

We asked if you think marijuana should be legal in Texas. Here are the results:

No - 13%
Medicinal only - 15%
Yes - 71%
Other - 1%
 


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