Building A Foundation

THE ESSENCE OF BUILDING A FOUNDATION

In participating, advocating, lobbying, and testifying throughout the course of the 2013 Texas legislative session, there is much that I (as well as many others) have learned. But be mindful of that learning process for it is the place where we, as advocates, can gain the tools and discipline required to build a strong foundation with our Texas State Representatives. I admit that when I testified for the first time at a public hearing in 2011, I was skeptical, intimidated, nervous, and quite weary of hidden agendas and tactics to silence the issue of cannabis reform altogether. There was indeed plenty for me to learn as it took me some time to realize exactly how important the act of establishing these relationships would be; I had stepped into new territory but steadily encouraged my willingness to learn more.

My first impression of the Texas Legislature in 2011 as compared to this session of 2013 is night and day; for anyone who experienced the two sessions, I honestly believe, you would agree. But the political climate has changed in 2013, and so don’t be shocked or surprised when I say that the Texas Legislature is ready to have this conversation. While we are not running a race but more of a marathon, we are inevitably making progress, and let’s be honest with ourselves in saying that any kind of progress is better than no progress at all. As this progress may not be in the form of actual laws just yet, the biggest change that we’ve achieved here in Texas is in the act of starting the conversation, starting the discussion. Conversation of the issues pertaining to cannabis reform and medical cannabis in general is exactly what needs to happen for any real change to take place and be brought forth.

We have seen history unfold here in Texas in 2013. For the first time, we finally had a bill get voted out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee; though stalled in Calendars, House Bill 184 would have lowered the penalty for possession of up to an ounce or less to a C Misdemeanor for first time offenders under the age of 21. As some may not agree with the age limit that had been amended into this bill, it would have been beneficial in at least keeping our younger individuals out of the prison system, which in my opinion, would have been a start. Coming from the standpoint of a medical cannabis patient though, I personally disagree about this being a “maturity issue” and disagree for the need of an age limit because for those suffering with disease and disability (regardless of age), we are forced to make mature decisions about our health and quality of life each and every day.

With House Bill 594, the affirmative defense bill which had been introduced over the previous five legislative sessions, history was made as we finally received our first public hearing from the Public Health Committee; though not getting voted out of committee, the hearing in of itself was progress as it brought out the need for medical cannabis legislation into the open! If anything, our legislators became more aware of the need to protect patients who use cannabis to alleviate the pains and symptoms of legitimate bona-fide medical conditions; they are also became more aware of the need to protect doctors to openly discuss or suggest cannabis as a possible treatment option for their patients. Therefore, it is up to us as participating lobbyists and advocates, to continue to educate our lawmakers on and about the change we are seeking and why.

Another aspect that we should all keep in mind and not underestimate is the national picture and its influence that it can have on surrounding or individual states, because let’s be truthful here, the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington set off more than just a light-bulb, it set off a beacon and with 18 medical cannabis states to add to that, and a few more to add by 2014, I’d say that the scales are about to tip; it’s only a matter of time!

As constituents of the state of Texas, we should hold our heads high and be inspired by the progress we have made for we have taken the first steps in building that strong foundation, that strong relationship with our lawmakers. It’s all about having the freedom to openly discuss and be attentive to the issues pertaining to cannabis reform and the thousands of medical patients that could benefit from the legislation of medical cannabis. I believe the issue speaks for itself of the conversation we will be having even more-so in Texas.

It’s about maintaining the discipline to not get angry, upset, and disappointed by the outcomes of these bills, and by seeing the good in the lessons we’ve learned even if no laws have been passed or made just yet.  It’s a work-in-progress that’s going to take some time and there’s plenty of work for us to do. From this point on, all the way to 2015, it’s of great importance that we continue to build on what’s been learned and established with the 2013 Texas legislature. How we can do this is by maintaining contact with the representatives that we established chemistry with and continue to talk about the issues, because chances are quite a few of these state representatives will be returning come next session.

We must be unwavering, dedicated, focused, respectful, and disciplined, for how we present ourselves today can greatly affect the influences and outcomes of tomorrow, but it is time to definitely talk about cannabis! ~