Texas activists march in support of reforming marijuana laws

 Saturday, hundreds of supporters of marijuana reform marched in support of bills in the Texas legislature that could change marijuana laws.

"They want to see change and they want to see it now," said Deputy Director of Texas National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws Jax Finkle.  

State lawmakers are facing 11 bills that could change marijuana laws in the Lone Star State this legislative session.
"We're out here to support them and let our representatives and senators know to make sure they take action on these bills," said Finkle.  

Earlier this week a bill that would fully legalize pot in Texas cleared a House committee. In a joint decision two republicans and three democrats voted to send the bill to the House floor. However, many lawmakers said the possibility of that happening before the session ends is highly unlikely.

"Two-thirds of voters are in support of marijuana reform and you really wouldn't know it from some of the conversations with some of the legislators. So they need to get on board with where the public is going on this or else they really do stand to lose out," said Zoe Russell, assistant executive director of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition.   

Texans with medical conditions may lose out even more than lawmakers. Currently, state law makes no exceptions for medical marijuana.

"For PTSD we're given psychotropic drugs by our doctors. The psychotropic drugs have awful side effects including making us feel like a zombie, suicidal ideation, some of them cause sexual impotence, and cannabis treats our symptoms of PTSD without those terrible side effects," said director of veterans outreach for Texas NORML.

Some republican supporters of decriminalizing marijuana said legalizing the drug isn't without it's challenges.

"There are risks to marijuana use and we don't promote marijuana use, but the policy doesn't work," said Russell.  

Russell said the benefits far outweigh the costs.

"So, we spend a quarter of a billion to three-quarters of a billion dollars per year and arrest about 70,000 people per year and we don't have any benefit over states that don't do that in terms of marijuana usage rates," said Russell.  

With the 84th legislative session coming to an end, supporters of reforming marijuana laws said the time to act is now.

"Nothing's final until it's final in that building," said Russell.

23 states currently have medical marijuana programs. Marijuana reform activists hope over the next three weeks lawmakers choose to make Texas number 24.

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