Whoever would have imagined that the great state of Texas, the stronghold of Republican conservatism in this country, would ever approve the use of medical marijuana? Just such a bill (HB 594) was filed by Democratic Texan legislator Elliott Naishtat in January 2013. The bill was lovingly passed on to the State’s Public Health people on Valentine’s Day. According to The Partnership at DrugFree.org, the bill has backing from representatives of both parties.
Eighteen states as well as the District of Columbia have approved legislation approving the use and/or the distribution of medical marijuana, or medicinal cannabis as it is called officially. They include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Of all those states, the two states that approved it within the past 12 months were Connecticut and Massachusetts. It’s well known, of course, that Colorado and Washington have gone beyond the constraints of medicinal cannabis and approved recreational use of marijuana.
One Texas legislator made an impassioned plea for passage of medical marijuana in Texas stating that if any of his loved ones were to contract a dreaded, painful disease, he’d be out on the streets without hesitation looking for some street weed for his affected relative.
Naishtat stated in April in the Dallas Morning News that his bill doesn’t decriminalize marijuana, but it makes it legal for someone to possess marijuana if he is diagnosed by a physician and this has been documented. The bill also protects physicians who want to discuss cannabis as a therapeutic alternative for their patients who suffer from debilitating illnesses. Up until now, many physicians have refused to treat such patients because they risk losing their license if they discuss medical marijuana with their patients in the state of Texas.
A Dallas Morning News reporter wrote in early April that over half the people support medicinal cannabis, a change from decades gone by. Other groups such as the Texas Eagle Forum oppose passage of this law because they recognize its potential as a gateway drug.
The statistics about marijuana’s status as a gateway drug are staggering. TIME Magazine reported in 2010 that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a person who smokes marijuana is 104 times more likely to use cocaine that someone who has never used drugs. Even so, many people are laughing off the dangers of marijuana—this is a time like Prohibition, they say, and eventually marijuana will be decriminalized in all states. It’s no worse than alcohol, they say.
The truth is that the dangers of marijuana have taken a back seat to the spreading popularity of prescription drugs, including painkillers and ADHD meds. Those who can no longer get painkillers move on to cheap heroin. Party drugs like ecstasy are popular.
The fact that people forget marijuana does have dangers renders it all the more dangerous. Use of marijuana not only takes people down the path toward more serious addiction issues, but it also carries its own risks. Teens who use it can suffer impaired cognitive brain function. Adults who use it experience decreased natural production of serotonin and norepinephrine. It can exacerbate someone’s susceptibility to mental health issues. Traffic accidents from marijuana are creeping upward. And, no matter how many states pass it, the fact remains that it’s still illegal on the federal level.
As medical marijuana in Texas and other states becomes increasingly widespread, families of loved ones with addictive personalities must be prepared to respond proactively by seeking out treatment for the person who continually abuses marijuana. Treatment with a licensed, certified drug counseling center can help the person to look at his motives and form a plan that will help him to stop using, once and for all.