Texas Vets Push for Marijuana Reform

Veterans Lobby Day held Wednesday at the Capitol
Originally published here.

A walking cane. Two back surgeries. Five morphine pills taken daily. Twenty every day in total. This is what brought disabled Navy veteran Corey Benshoof to Veterans Lobby Day at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

Army Maj. David Bass reads a letter outside the Capitol on Veterans Lobby Day (Photo by Montinique Monroe)
Benshoof is among several veterans who gathered to urge Gov. Greg Abbott and other lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 269, filed by Sen. José Menéndez D-San Antonio, which would allow physicians to prescribe medical marijuana to registered cardholders. Veterans said the passage of this bill would give them an alternative and safer way to treat service sustained injuries such as chronic pain, traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, and other related illnesses.

Supporters gathered to hear veteran testimonies at a press conference before heading into the building to deliver a letter to Abbott’s office. The letter, co-signed by more than 1,400 veterans, was written by retired Army Maj. David Bass and called for a meeting with the Governor to discuss veterans need for medical cannabis. Benshoof was unable to deliver the the letter with the rest of the group. “I’m not going to go there just because of the pain,” he said. “It’s starting to get to me where I can’t walk around too much longer.”

Army veteran Amanda Berard was medically discharged for service related injuries including PTSD related to sexual trauma, for which she takes several prescription medications. “The side effects from those medications are almost more horrific than the symptoms they were supposed to be treating,” she said. Berard experienced cannabis first hand while visiting Colorado. She said the difference between cannabis and prescription medications “was like night and day.” Cannabis lessened her anxiety, allowed her to interact with people, and eat for the first time in four days. She said she believes it could do the same for other veterans, if only they weren’t threatened by the possibility of facing criminal penalties.

“I’m out here because I don’t think anyone is a criminal for making themselves healthy and productive members of society – especially not veterans,” she said.

Jax Finkel Executive Director of Texas NORML, said veterans have been trying to organize a meeting with the Governor for more than a year and she hopes this lobby day will give veterans a seat at the table. “These veterans need help,” she said. “They’re here today asking that they get the same rights as veterans in the other states with medical cannabis.”

Senate Bill 269 was referred to the Health and Human services committee and is currently awaiting a hearing.