TEXAS COALITION OF COMPASSIONATE CARE: A QUICK HISTORY

The TCCC started in the summer of 2007. Texans for Medical Marijuana had been advocating for patients in our state with grant money from the MPP. After the session in 2007 the money dried up and the announcement was made that the organization would close its doors. I remember how important it was for me to find TMM and I could not bear the thought that other patients would not find an organization that's sole focus is advocating for medical marijuana patients. I did not want anyone to feel that alone. So I requested the resources TMM had, to continue the mission, and keep the candle burning. We got their web properties and e-mail list for  2500 people in Texas. We built a new webpage and started using the resources as best as we could with the limited time we had. The Dallas Peace Center became our fiscal sponsor. For six years we operated as a volunteer non-profit committee of the Dallas Peace Center. In 2013, for personal reasons, I stepped down from directing the organization. We formed our own Non-profit corporation, and wrote bylaws defining the focus of the organization. We started a new path as a member based organization. I recommended Ryan Rodriguez as the new director and he was voted in at our first board meeting, the formation meeting.

I am excited about the new path for TCCC as a member organization. The new people and energy that have come forward to take responsibility in shaping our new future is inspiring. We are a diverse group with members and partners across the state. Currently TCCC is meeting with patients, families and their representatives, and working with legislators. We are working with others to build momentum for the coming session.

Medical Marijuana is an important issue in Texas with 97,000 new cancer cases, 37,285 cancer deaths, 33,000 people with MS, 63,000 Texans Living with Aids, 1.7 million veterans in TX that have served in war (many with PTSD)... the list can go on. Although polls show strong public support for medical marijuana, we are finding that among that majority, most don't think their neighbors feel the same way. We need to get people talking about medical cannabis and to center our conversations around patients. As one of the major veteran states, Texans need to talk about supporting our soldiers who come home with the war still raging inside. Like the journey of healing, the journey to compassionate laws for suffering patients is also difficult. There is no doubt in my mind we will win safe-access to medical marijuana in the state of Texas and across the United States, quite simply because we have the stronger narrative. I believe that we use the facts as a wall to guard us from telling the real story, because the real story is painful, the real story is raw, and emotional. The real story is much more difficult to tell because it can leave us feeling vulnerable, exposed, embarrassed. And for all of those reasons the real story helps us connect on a human level and helps the listener empathize. That is what makes the real story, the human story, so powerful.

I have met with a soldier who has come back from Iraq, who's mother does drug testing for a living. Though she is against legalization, love overcame everything, like the flip of a switch, to allow her son some relief from the terrors he brought home from the war zone. I have met and listened to the story of a person who watched their brother die of cancer, who was so intoxicated with opioid for the pain, that their family was denied the simple blessing of saying goodbye. The facts have been overwhelming for a long time. It is time that we break down our walls to tell the story of what love does to relieve suffering. When they hear this story, they will think of the people they love, and know they would also do anything to relieve that suffering. They will see their wife in pain, their son returning with war still inside, and their brother lethargic on his death-bed. They can then hear about others near death, who had their pain diminished while still having the mental presence to say goodbye. They will never hear this in an impersonal study or in a recitation of all the historical and medical facts. Yes no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, but saying it 10 times does not make our politicians listen any closer, or for that matter almost anyone else; what does is narrative. Toni, one of our patient advocates, said it wonderfully in her testimony on HB594 at the last hearing we had, She said “ As a nurse I have received the calls when a patient is killed by the medicine we gave them, I remember every one of them, I knew their names. However when I sent a patient home with medical marijuana I knew I would never receive that call”. This is putting skin and bones on that same fact, narrative gives it life. We will win because our narrative is stronger!

As an organization, Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care is solely focused on patients and the medical use of marijuana. Our singular aim allows us to more effectively advocate for patients and their interests. Compassion is about empathizing with the suffering of another and then taking action to help alleviate that suffering. It is not enough to only be empathetic, compassion requires action. That is our daily focus at TCCC. We know that medical marijuana is about science, politics and the law, but for those who need it most, it is about compassion. ~