Abbot ducks medical marijuana talk with Texas veterans

By Glenn Evans | Feb. 28, 2017
Originally published here.

Gov. Greg Abbott is the latest politician to go missing when constituents with views that conflict with his try to meet with him.

In a month marked by Congress members ducking requests to have recess town hall meetings, Wednesday brought a group of veterans to Austin hoping to discuss medical marijuana with the governor.

They left without getting a meeting, but left behind a letter bearing the signatures of more than 1,400 Texas veterans outlining reasons many are turning to the illegal plant to treat injuries received while serving in combat.

The letter’s author, David Bass with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said he has been trying to get a meeting with the governor for months. Bass said he wrote the letter in May in hopes of setting up a Veterans Day meeting in November.

Subsequent calls to the governor’s office yielded a January meeting with an aide. Bass said the aide promised to forward the request for a meeting to the governor.

Meanwhile, he said he gathered veteran signatures and delivered the letter in person last week.

“They knew we were coming,” Bass said. “And we’re very disappointed that not a single aide came out from the governor’s office and acknowledged the veterans and took the letter from us. These are all Texas veterans and many of them voted for Governor Abbott. These are very conservative Texans.”

The vets aren’t the only conservatives having difficulty arranging a meeting with Abbott to discuss medical marijuana. Alexis Bortell, an 11-year-old whose family moved from Texas to Colorado to obtain marijuana for her daily epileptic seizures, has been trying for more than a year to discuss her case with Abbott.

“He won’t meet with us,” her father, an engineer and himself a wounded veteran, said of the governor.

Dean Bortell said Alexis marked her 700th day without a seizure Feb. 19. He said frustrated attempts to meet with Abbott are prompting Alexis to look for someone who will meet with her after the next governor’s election.

“She looks forward to working with anyone who wants to be governor who wants to help the patients,” the father said.

Abbott’s office directed any questions on the veterans visit be sent by email to the governor’s press office.

The office had not responded to an email asking if Abbott received the letter and why he did not meet the veterans. There also was no response to why he has rebuffed the Bortells’ repeated requests to meet.

Bass said the group that went to Austin this past week was mostly from Central Texas. He didn’t know if any Northeast Texans were among them.

Veterans long ago found marijuana was an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain, Bass said.

“We have veterans from every conflict all the way back to the Korean War who have been using cannabis all these years as medicine for these service-related injuries,” he said. “We have thousands of veterans in Texas who use cannabis as medicine. And we’re labeled ‘criminals.’ ”

In the letter, Bass wrote to Abbott that the narcotics prescribed for pain are “addictive and dangerous,” while psychotropic medicines used to treat PTSD “have terrible side effects.”

Jim Batchelor, an Iraqi Freedom veteran who was shot in the head, said the “ton of medications” prescribed to him by the Veterans Administration left him so disconnected from reality he found he preferred living with pain.

“Once I could think straight again, I absolutely refused to be on them,” said Batchelor, an East Texan from Cooper who was among the veterans seeking an audience with Abbott last week. “I now either have no pain and don’t know what’s going on or have pain and keep my wits about me.”

Batchelor said medical marijuana should be an option for service people.

“We’re adult enough to decide to go to war,” he said. “We should be able to say we want to do this. Most of us have sleeping disorders and eating disorders. It’s basically, ‘Treat us like adults.’ “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *