PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 15, 2014

Marijuana advocates hope to reform laws

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — Faith Baker can hardly remember a time when debilitating pain was not a part of her life.

She’s found some relief and doesn’t care if its illegal, but hopes that one day it won’t be.

At 61-years-old, the Beaumont resident suffers from fibromyalgia, arthritis, scoliosis, and has recently been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia — a disease that creates episodes of intense, stabbing, electric shock-like facial pain.

“It is more painful that having 10 babies that weigh 20 pounds each,” she said. “I have found relief with marijuana when nothing else would help.”

Baker was among about 50 people gathered at Logon Cafe Saturday night to organize a new NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) chapter.

The local chapter will be the 14th in the state formed to legalize the responsible use of marijuana for adults, not only for medicinal use, but recreational also.

“Each year, 658,000 people are forced into handcuffs for nothing more than possession of marijuana. That’s ridiculous, it really is,” Mendez said.

Currenty in Texas, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 dyas in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The medical and therapeutic benefits can longer be ignored, he said to a chorus of amen’s coming from the audience.

Mendez said it was time to change Texas laws — much like people worked to change prohibition during the 1920s.

“Together, with your support, we can make a difference,” he said.

To be effective, members of the group must be active in politics, CO-organizer Royce Abrego said.

Last year, Colorado and Washington state made marijuana fully legal for adults. By January, the first month sales for recreational marijuana use were permitted, Colorado collected about $2 million in marijuana taxes.

“As Texans we should be asking ourselves, Why not us?” Abrego said.

Instead of making money, Texas spends $20,000 a year for the incarceration of people convicted of marijuana possession. Seventy-thousand marijuana-related arrests are made each year in Texas, Abrego said.  

Mary Sue Williams, 82, of Beaumont, said she was an advocate of medicinal marijuana usage, though not recreational.

Back in 1950 while working as a medical technician at a hospital, a patient taking chemo was having trouble keeping anything on his stomach. His son suggested he try marijuana, which he did, and it calmed his stomach, Williams said.

“There is a place for medical marijuana and we are losing it. Texas is so damn slow in what it does,” she said.

While many at the meeting spoke of the medicinal traits the herb possesses, Mike Johnson, 55, described himself as from the Woodstock era, who enjoys smoking marijuana.

“I smoked it for 40 years, and I like it,” he said. “Personally, I think this fight against marijuana has gone on long enough. They did not go through this much with prohibition, and I can’t remember once in my life anyone OD’ing on marijuana. I never heard of it.”

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