When Noelle Davis first founded Texans for Medical Marijuana, I have to admit I was cynical. I considered the issue basically a stalking horse for the marijuana legalization movement, but since then I've come around on the question 180 degrees. One of the great merits of TMM's campaign has that they've scrupulously refused to allow the issue to be framed as part of the drug legalization debate, insisting on highlighting stories of real patients and hard medical science while eschewing politicized rhetoric. I admire that approach and have become convinced that there are real, medically based reasons for allowing marijuana use by some patients, and the issue really deserves to be considered on its own merits.
Apparently not everyone at the Texas Legislature has had a similar transformation in their thinking, because Noelle's email asked TMM supporters to help educate their own local representatives on why these patients deserve exemption from prosecution. With her permission I reprint the letter in full:
For the past five months I have traveled across the state meeting with Texas State Legislators to ask them to support a medical marijuana bill during the legislative session starting January 9th. I am glad to report the overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans said they agreed that patients should not be locked up for following their doctors’ advice. However, as of today at least, none feel politically safe enough to join Representative Naishtat in bravely breaking the silence and offering a solution that has proven effective in 11 other states. Now I have not met with all the legislators, so I still hope to find some who are brave enough, but simply have not been asked yet.
Two of the legislators I spoke with shared exactly the same reason why they would not publicly support our bill: they fear their primary opponent or general election opponent running a TV commercial against them saying, “He voted to LEGALIZE MARIJUANA!!!” Sadly, they are probably right to fear such intentionally deceptive commercials.
The number one reason legislators gave as to why they won’t publicly support medical marijuana is that they do not have enough political cover. They want political cover in the form of public support for medical marijuana legislation from groups like the Texas Medical Association, their local prosecutors and law enforcement groups. So far my attempts to talk with these groups have been mostly met with silence. Two law enforcement associations have said they will likely remain neutral, which in the game of Texas politics is sometimes the best you can get.
Several of the legislators also said they are not hearing from medical marijuana supporters in their district, and one said he had only heard from people who are opposed.
This is where you come in. Your personal participation will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of this campaign. The time has come to start educating your state legislators either by a phone call, hand written letter, or the most effective method (when you are well prepared), a personal visit.
Why do you personally care if they support medical marijuana legislation? Please tell them either by calling, writing or personally visiting, and ask them to support a policy change that would save state law enforcement the precious resources of money and time, while creating a program that will help some of the most vulnerable people among us. Here are the main points that need to be included in a bill to make it an effective law:• protect registered seriously ill patients - and their registered caregivers - who possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana with their doctors' certification from arrest and prosecution by state authorities;
• create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials will be able to easily tell who is a registered qualified patient or caregiver and who is not, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards;
• protect doctors from being punished for advising their patients that - in their sincere professional judgment - the benefits of the medical use of marijuana for the patient would exceed the risks;
• allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to raise a medical defense in court; and
• prohibit the public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana, among other common sense restrictions.
Between now and the beginning of April, if every person receiving this message contacted their legislators and successfully encouraged one friend or family member to reach out to their legislators also – that might generate enough “political cover” to get the legislators in Austin to do the right thing and support Representative Naishtat's bill.
We need your help telling people what we are trying to achieve and explaining how they can join you in playing an important role in speaking up for safe access. You can find who represents you in the Texas State Legislature, and their contact information, by inserting your address at the following link: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/
Thank you for demonstrating your courage and commitment by speaking up for safe access!
Texans for Medical Marijuana