Can more than 1.5 million Texas veterans change the minds of state lawmakers opposed to legalizing medical marijuana?
William Martin, director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, poses that question in the June issue of Texas Monthly. In his article “War Without End,” Martin talks with veterans using pot to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
"The story that’s most illustrative is a woman who uses the name Myst," Martin says.
"She was in the Navy and for four years she was repeatedly sexually abused by her superiors," Martin continues. "She found she was at the point of suicide."
"An uncle of hers who had landed on the Omaha Beach on D-Day said that at the end of that day, a French soldier offered him a joint and said 'try this.' He said it calmed him down so he offered one to her and it has worked. And that keeps her on a pretty even keel."
Experiences like these could encourage lawmakers to sponsor bills related to legalization of medical and recreational marijuana – but Martin doesn't expect real change in Texas until a few more years down the line.
"It’s expected that none of these bills will get through this year – but there should be the opportunity to have [an] open public discussion that shows a majority of Texans believe recreational marijuana should be legal," he says. "And more than two-thirds … believe medical marijuana should be legal."
Texas has an unusual lobby to legalize medical marijuana: the sizeable veteran population.
"Texas has approximately 1.6 million veterans and we have 15 military bases," Martin says. "Every legislator has veterans in his or her district. … I think it would be helpful if veterans will tell legislators, tell them their story and tell them you need to be serious about this."
A forum on using marijuana to treat veterans with PTSD is scheduled at Rice University on June 18. Scheduled speakers include Martin, Texas Monthly Senior Executive Editor Brian Sweaney, State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Seton Healthcare Family's Dr. Neeraj Shah.