All posts by Heather Fazio

Marijuana legalization on the ballot in 9 states

Bret Vetter, KYTX 6:35 PM. CDT October 19, 2016
Originally published here.

For some, marijuana legalization is no laughing matter.

Tyler resident Angela Parkman believes more people would support full legalization if they were affected by it.

According to Parkman, “If they had a family member who had seizures and saw the side effects of the medicines that are now available cause, they would definitely be in favor of it.”

Passed in 2015, the Compassionate Care Act allows Texas doctors to prescribe low THC marijuana to patients suffering from severe seizures.

However, Federal law prohibits pharmacies from distributing Marijuana, which is why dispensaries are used in states where it is legal.

Therefore, the wording of the Texas law will have to change or the Federal law will have to be amended in order for the law to have it’s intended effect.

For those opposed to legalization, like Tyler resident Betty Carol, that’s a good thing.

“I don’t think it should be legalized because it leads to harder drugs and things,” said Carol.

As Americans head to the polls next month, nine states will decide whether to expand access.

Advocates with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy are in favor of a bill that would reduce the penalty for possession in Texas from jail to to a civil fine.

The group hopes to have a Texas legislator sponsor and draft the bill for consideration during the first legislative session in 2017.
(© 2016 KYTX)

El Paso Community Forum on Marijuana Policy

This Saturday, October 22, don’t miss two terrific marijuana policy events!

First, at 10:00 a.m., join us at the El Paso Main Library for a community forum on marijuana policy, featuring state and federal officeholders who have championed sensible marijuana policies. Our event will feature Congressman Beto O’Rourke, State Senator José Rodríguez, and State Representative Joe Moody. It will be moderated by Meghan Lopez of KFOX-TV this Saturday, at the El Paso Library Downtown from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Topics will include progress at the federal and state level, how federal policies affect Texas, and what we’re expecting during the 2017 Texas legislative session. Additionally, we’ll take questions from the audience.

This event is free and open to the public. Here’s a link to our Facebook event that can be easily shared. Please spread the word!


Texas Veterans Push for Marijuana Reform

AUSTIN, Texas – Veterans returning from war often come back with invisible scars — those were the stories shared among Texas vets during a conference at the state capitol.

“When I came back from Iraq I was having nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, paranoia and feeling that I really didn’t want to leave my house. Cannabis allowed me to get those symptoms under control,” said David Bass, an Iraq War veteran.

Activists hoping for a reform in Texas’ marijuana policies are calling on lawmakers to look past the stigma.

“This is actually helping veterans, not harming veterans. They’re able to quit their addiction to opioids and their dependency to psychotropic medications,” said Bass.

They insist vets are often prescribed cocktails of antidepressants to relieve post-traumatic stress disorders.

(Click to for video.)

“It’s not the doctor’s fault – it’s the system. The system is broken and it needs to be fixed. We’re here to raise awareness and bring a fix to the system,” said Clifford Deuvall, founding executive director of the Waco branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Activists say similar reforms have been implemented successfully across 25 states and D.C. They say a similar path can be carved out here at home.

“The question is how do we move from it being totally illegal to having a well-regulated medical marijuana program in Texas,” said Bass.

With 1.7 million veterans living in the state, Texas has the largest population in the country — and with that, activists say, a greater demand away from prescription medicine.

“I think the vision for Texas is exactly down that avenue. We need to offer viable healthcare alternatives,” said Deuvall

Activists say they’ll deliver letters to Governor Greg Abbott on Veterans Day next month — all from veterans who support marijuana reform. But for now the fight to rally congressional support continues.

Originally published here:

VIDEO: Medical marijuana advocates look for big 2017

Mark Wiggins, KVUE

AUSTIN – The latest polls show voters are poised to legalize marijuana in all five states with initiatives on the ballot this November. For marijuana advocates in Texas and elsewhere, the new year could begin with the wind strongly at their backs.

Texas passed its first “compassionate use” law in 2015, which allowed marijuana-based oil to treat intractable epilepsy. The Texas law restricts use to a special strain high in the chemical cannabidiol (CBD) and low in the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It was a tiny measure compared to medical marijuana laws in other states, but the bill’s endorsement by Texas’ rock-ribbed Republican leadership marked a political sea change.

One of the state’s most high-profile advocates, ten-year-old Alexis Bortell suffered from terrible seizures before moving to Colorado to take advantage of the state’s medical marijuana law. Parents Dean and Liza explained her first medical marijuana prescription was similar to the low-THC kind now legal in Texas.

“It was better than pharmaceuticals,” Dean Bortell told KVUE. “We got 33 days and then she had a pretty bad seizure, not as bad as she had in Texas, but enough that the doctor said, ‘You know what? Let’s go ahead and push up the THC.’ And now we’re 573 days seizure-free today. So it’s which is the greater good?”

The Bortells say they need a “whole plant” policy to be able to return to Texas. It’s a complaint many medical marijuana patients expressed during the debate on the “CBD-only” bill passed by the Eighty-fourth Texas Legislature, and one they hope to rectify in the upcoming legislative session.

Big changes are already on the way in several other states. This November, Massachusetts, Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada are poised to legalize marijuana completely.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Marijuana Policy Project Texas political director Heather Fazio. “Win, lose or draw, we’re going to see a historic night on election night here in the United States. And here in Texas, what that translates to is momentum.”

“We haven’t really stopped working since the last legislative session,” said Fazio. “With the passage of the compassionate use act and now the rules being rolled out by the Department of Public Safety, we see a lot on the horizon. And patients want to see this program made more inclusive so that those with cancer, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, debilitating conditions like that have access to this medicine.”

The business opportunities created by the proliferation of states relaxing marijuana restrictions have captured the interests of a whole generation of entrepreneurs. Yet slow movement at the federal level has made it difficult for state industries to fully flourish.

“When the federal government doesn’t let you take tax deductions, when you can’t go to your neighborhood bank and get a checking account, when you can’t process credit cards, it keeps the industry in that grey area,” said KIND Financial CEO David Dinenberg. “We all strive every day for this industry to grow up, become mainstream and become truly legitimate, and I wake up every day trying to solve those problems.”

The California-based business offers compliance solutions for a budding industry, which is being actively monitored, state-by-state. “The states are all looking at each other and taking the best points of each law and trying to create a very robust regulatory market, which is important,” explained Dinenberg. “Colorado just enacted labeling on all the edibles. Nevada was really the first state to have mandatory lab testing.”

It adds up to big business: Providing more than $100 million in annual tax revenue in Colorado alone.

“The job creation’s real. The tax revenue’s real,” said Dinenberg. “But the access to the medicine is the most important thing.”

That’s why Dean Bortell argues, “Let the doctors run the show.”

“It’s a medical decision. It’s different for every patient,” said Bortell. “So for the legislators to sit down there without a medical license, most of them, and tell us what our doctor has to prescribe our children, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

(© 2016 KVUE)

Originally published here:

Representative Isaac in favor of decriminalization, not legalization

By: Dalton Sweat, Editor,
The Wimberley View
Aug. 24, 2016

State Representative Jason Isaac has come out in support of the decriminalization of marijuana, but clearly stated that does not mean he supports legalization.

“Some people get confused on legalization very quick,” Isaac said. “I don’t support legalization.”

Currently, possession of less than two ounces can result in up to a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

Decriminalization of marijuana would simply remove criminal penalties for possessing certain amounts of marijuana and replacing them with a smaller fine. It would also be a civil offense, as opposed to a criminal offense, so it would not go on a person’s criminal record.

Isaac said he believes there are reasons that being caught with small amounts of marijuana should be a lower level misdemeanor.

“I do support people who get caught with small amount of marijuana for personal use that they not be treated as criminals, and that it be a misdemeanor fine similar to public intoxication or a parking ticket,” Isaac said. “…(That way) they are not branded as criminals and ultimately waste economic development and waste tax payer dollars. For me it’s about economic development, and those people who may be hurt by this one mistake they may have made.”

Isaac talked about the difficulty people can have finding a job after a marijuana conviction.

“Texas State University is in my district,” Isaac said. “You have a student that is going to school there, paying tuition and room and board, but the state is still subsidizing part of that (cost of education)… They make a mistake and can’t get a job or have trouble finding a job in the area they have educated for  and the state has invested in. We have created these barriers because of antiquated laws.”

Representative Joe Moody, from El Paso, brought up a law last session on the subject that did not pass, and Isaac said if he brings it up again, he would support it.

Isaac also said he would be interested in expanding the use of marijuana medically for “compassionate care.”

Last session, the legislature allowed for cannabis oil that is a non-euphoric derivative of marijuana to be used for children with severe epilepsy.

“It reduced the number of seizures,” Isaac said. “…I think we need to go a bit further and allow these patients and doctors to have more freedom in medicines they prescribe for their patients… There are a number of areas that this can potentially benefit from different types of medicine.”

Originally published here.

Will State Lawmakers Fix Texas’ Harsh Marijuana Laws Next Session?

Posted By Michael Barajas on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 9:20 am

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision last week to list cannabis alongside the world’s deadliest drugs, like heroin, means that states will continue to decide on their own whether pot possession should be harshly punished and what, if any, patients are allowed access to a plant with many known medical uses.

The decision perpetuates a patchwork system of pot laws across the country that differ radically from state to state. Lawmakers in 25 states have legalized marijuana in some form, while four states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational use of the plant. On the flip side, in some parts of the country, like Texas, a pot possession charge can derail your life and lead to significant jail time. Some cops in Texas might even stick their hands inside you on the side of the road if they think they smell something skunky during a traffic stop.

That’s why marijuana reform activists in Texas say they’re focused on changing state policy in the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January 2017. Heather Fazio, Texas political director with the Marijuana Policy Project, says activists have two main goals heading into the session: expanding medical marijuana and lowering criminal penalties for simple possession.

While lawmakers managed to pass the state’s first-ever medical marijuana law last year, the law itself is extremely limited—if not practically useless. It approved only marijuana extracts containing high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD oil, and only trace amounts of THC, the stuff that actually gets you high. Still, patients suffering from uncontrollable seizures and rare forms of epilepsy (the people who probably need it the most) are now eligible for this medical marijuana extract with a doctor’s prescription.

This presents another problem: All other medical marijuana states have laws requiring doctors “recommend” or “certify” patients wanting pot for treatment. That’s because “prescribing” medical marijuana is still one of those legal gray areas thanks to federal pot prohibition. Since the DEA still considers the plant to be a Schedule I drug (meaning it has no legitimate use), doctors risk losing their DEA license to prescribe other controlled substances if they start “prescribing” pot. But turns out “recommending” or “certifying” patients for medical marijuana use is a First Amendment-protected activity, so other states have adjusted their laws accordingly.

Texas’ law, meanwhile, says a doctor must “prescribe” the drug. Advocates say the law is so limited families with sick children, like this one, continue to flee the state seeking treatment for serious seizure disorders in other states with more relaxed marijuana laws. Fazio says activists want to see the drug expanded to treat a variety of conditions—from post-traumatic stress disorder to relief for cancer patients.

“There are families uprooting from Texas, where they want to live, because they can’t treat their children here,” Fazio told us. “We think we can convince the Legislature that that shouldn’t be happening.”

Fazio says the other priority for 2017 is legislation that reduces criminal penalties for pot possession in Texas. And that’s because, as it stands, some of those laws are not only draconian, but nonsensical. (Consider the fact that prosecutors in Texas can threaten people caught with too many pot brownies with life in prison because Texas law, instead of weighing the amount of drugs that actually went into the edibles, considers a pound of flour, sugar, and eggs mixed with pot to be a charge-able pound of drugs.)

Fazio says MPP plans to back, among other things, the kind of proposal filed by El Paso Rep. Joe Moody last year, which would reduce penalties for marijuana possession of less than 1 ounce to a $100 fine and no jail time.

“We want to take away the threat of arrest, jail time, and most importantly that criminal record that comes along with a simple possession charge,” Fazio said.

Originally posted here.

Denying patient access to cannabis is a “crime against humanity,” says Glen Mayes, medical refugee from Texas.

Despite some form of legalization in 25 states and Washington D.C., marijuana will remain ranked among the most dangerous drugs. The DEA announced that Thursday, refusing to recognize it has any medical benefits.

Glen Mayes loves his South Austin home. His son was born in his bedroom. But all of his possessions are in boxes. He says he must leave. “It’s hard to leave. It’s hard to think about leaving,” said Mayes.

He calls himself a medical refugee.

His son Orion was born with a rare brain condition. At his worst, he was having 8-10 seizures a day.

“I videotaped one of his seizures,” Mayes said with tears streaming down his face. “Seeing that video was one of the lowest points because I was completely helpless.” Mayes says to treat his son, doctors prescribed high dosages of tranquilizers which basically left him in a comatose state for days.

Then he tried cannabis oil. “We put it on our finger and we rub it on his gums. We have patches that we put inside of his ankle,” explained Mayes. He says it worked miracles.

In July, his family made the decision to move to Colorado.

Since Orion has had steady access to cannabis oil, Mayes says he’s had just two short seizures. “It’s amazing. His quality of life has changed. His whole demeanor is changed. I’ll get on Facetime and we’re actually interacting and it’s beautiful,” said Mayes.

Full story here.

Save the date: Marijuana policy training events this fall


In preparation for the 2017 legislative session, we’re hosting a series of regional advocacy training events. And we’re coming to a city near you!

The work we do now will serve to put us in an excellent position to pass meaningful policy reform next year, when the Texas Legislature convenes. We want to see criminal penalties for low-level possession replaced with a simple civil citation to eliminate the risk of arrest, jail time, and a permanent criminal record. Additionally, making the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive is a high priority. Currently, too many patients are left behind!

IMG 5326 (RSD M. Gilbert at MPP SA Training Photo - MPP 10-03-15)

The following events will train advocates on messaging strategy, how the legislative process works, and how citizens can be involved in lobbying efforts. Each event will also feature a guest speaker from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, one of our best allies.

Mark your calendar! Dates and locations:

  • September 17/18 — Amarillo and Lubbock
  • September 24/25 — Tyler and Arlington
  • October 1/2 — Harlingen and Corpus Christi
  • October 8/9 — Houston and San Antonio
  • October 22 — El Paso

All events will be free and open to the public but will require online registration as seating will be limited. I look forward to seeing you this fall!

We are looking for patients, medical professionals, clergy, law enforcement, and other influential community members who are interested in meeting with their state legislators in each area. Email us if you’re interested.
To support our work and offset costs, please consider donating today!

Canada: Cannabis Among Veterans Up, Opioids Decline

Canada: Rising Popularity Of Medical Cannabis Among Veterans Associated With Declining Opioid Use

by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
June 9, 2016

Rising rates of medical cannabis use among Canadian military veterans is associated with a parallel decline in the use of prescription opiates and benzodiazepenes, according to federal data recently provided to The Globe and Mail.

According to records provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, the number of veterans prescribed benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Ativan, and Valium) fell nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2016, while veterans’ use of prescription opiates declined almost 17 percent. During this same period, veterans seeking federal reimbursements for prescription cannabis rose from fewer than 100 total patients to more than 1,700.

Canadian officials legalized the use of cannabis via prescription in 2001.

While the data set is too small to establish cause and effect, the trend is consistent with data indicating that many patients substitute medical cannabis for other prescription drugs, especially opiates.

Prior assessments from the United States report that incidences of opioid-related addiction, abuse, and mortality are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medicinal cannabis access as compared to those states that do not.