Critics say legalization would send wrong message
Fourteen states have legalized marijuana as a medicine with a doctor’s permission, and a Dallas group is pushing for Texas to be the next.
"Our message is simple,” said Stephen Betzen, director of the Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care. “It's time to get the sick and dying off the battlefield of the war on drugs."
Opponents say it will be a tough sell in Texas, where the idea didn’t get far in the last legislative session.
"I think the negatives are much higher than the positives,” said Pat Carlson, president of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum, which opposes any step to legalize the drug.
She said legalization would send the wrong message to young people, questioned whether the herb really helps as a medicine and accused supporters of wanting to legalize marijuana for everyone.
“It doesn’t just stop with medical use,” she said.
Betzen founded the group after his wife started using marijuana to treat Lyme disease.
"It was painful to watch,” he said. “If you can imagine, waking up next to the one you love, listening to them cry every day."
Betzen, who said he has never smoked marijuana in his life, said someone left an anonymous package near his front door. It contained marijuana and a letter suggesting his wife try it to relieve her pain and fatigue.
"Within a week of using marijuana, we were dancing in our living room, which is something that had been taken away from us,” he said. "Marijuana gave my wife back to me."
Tim Timmons, of Garland, started smoking marijuana about five years ago to treat his multiple sclerosis.
"You wake up in the fetal position cringing from the pain every day,” he said. “It's no fun."
The one-time bull rider and high school football player said a friend suggested something: Smoking pot.
"So I tried it and went, ‘Whoa!’” he said.
He admits smoking the herb every day, especially at bedtime to help sleep.
"It makes all the difference in the world,” he said.
Timmons said he doesn’t worry about talking publicly about it.
"I would honestly like to be arrested for this,” he said. “Honestly, I would."
Betzen said he plans to push for a medical marijuana law in Texas when lawmakers meet again in 2011.
The movement is gaining momentum around the country.
"The government's own studies have shown that marijuana has efficacy,” he said. “The only hurdle that we really have now is the political one."
By SCOTT GORDON
January 5, 2010