Medical Marijuana Advocates Take on Texas House

April 30, 2007

, KAMC - ABC News

Legalizing medical marijuana has been a heated debate across America for some time and now it has made its way to the Texas House. A group called Texans for Medical Marijuana gathered in Austin Monday, asking lawmakers to at least hear-out a bill that would ease up on patients who say they need marijuana as part of their treatment. But so far, the group says they`ve been shut out of public hearings. "This has been a political debate. Unfortunately, many of these decisions are made at the ballot box and not at the laboratory."

For a health care professional like Jim Johnson, Senior Vice President at University Medical Center, the medical marijuana debate is a bit shaky.

"There`s no scientific data to prove the benefits out way the risks or that it doesn`t work" says Johnson.

But for some down in Austin, the benefits are pretty clear. Members of Texans for Medical Marijuana say the drug helps where standard medicines don`t. Like helping cancer patients experiencing nausea from chemotherapy and multiple sclerosis patients handle spasms. So they`ve asked the Texas Public Health Committee Chair, Diane Delisi, to include House Bill 15-34 in a public hearing. It’s a bill that would still consider marijuana illegal but it would allow patients to explain to a jury why they use the drug if they are arrested.

"This is not about party time; this is life and death for some people. It`s a very serious issue and we just wanted her and other representatives to see the faces of the people who are affected by this so maybe they would be moved to stand up and do the right thing" says Noelle Davis with Texans for Medical Marijuana.

But so far the bill hasn`t been up for a formal hearing. So the group has gathered in Austin, bringing a doctor, a minister, and patients to spread the word that the issue really needs to be discussed.

"I would ask people to think what would you do if a loved one was suffering and your doctor told you to try this medication, this could happen to anybody" says Davis.

The group says they turned in written testimony to chairperson Delisi`s office and hope she`ll have the bill heard Wednesday which will be her last hearing.

The state of Maryland has a similar law in place to the one the group is proposing. A total of twelve states in the United States allow patients to possess marijuana with a doctor`s permission, but federal law still has the right to ban the drug in those states.

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