A fight against cancer and for marijuana in El Paso, Texas
Meet Colt DeMorris, an average guy from El Paso who stepped up to be a leader in his community.
Born and raised in the west Texas border town, having attending Catholic school there, Colt has called it home his entire life of 29 years. It’s also where he met his wife Toni.
Working at a local law firm as a legal assistant, Colt enjoys life, watching hockey, taking in outdoor concerts, and being outdoors in general.
After watching his grandfather die of lung cancer in 2006, and his mother lose her battle in 2009 with colon cancer, Colt began learning of the many positive effects cancer patients experience from consuming marijuana.
He decided to begin educating others about the non-toxic plant and how it could help people who are fighting cancer, starting a Facebook page called Cannabis Users United, which connected over 5,000 people.
In 2012 Colt began to move his education campaign from the internet to the streets, inspired by a non-profit chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in the Dallas/Fort Worth area called DFW NORML.
The groundwork for a NORML chapter in El Paso was began by Colt later that year. He assembled three of the five board members needed to officially establish the non-profit organization and got the necessary paperwork together.
In December of 2012, Toni was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
She began treatment in January of 2013, receiving chemotherapy until May, after which her radio-oncologist said that Toni’s tumor seemed to be going down and everything looked fine. Her oncologist concurred.
During this time Toni consumed marijuana medicinally to help with the side-effects of chemotherapy, which enabled her to endure the pain, and fight off nausea and lack of appetite. Her doctors noted that she did very well during her treatments, and Toni attributes that to her use of cannabis.
When Toni’s cancer struck, Colt had to delay starting the NORML chapter, but by June he was back at it, driven by the memory of his grandfather and mother, with his wife now having to battle cancer as well. He gained a fourth board member later that month and began ensuring everything was in order to get the chapter going.
An interest group meeting was held in September to coincide with a border legislative conference, which drew about 40 people and local media attention.
It was in October that he found the fifth board member, and by November, El Paso NORML was officially born and recognized by the State of Texas.
The group made their plans and looked forward to the organization’s first official event, which would be held in January of 2014. The meeting included speakers from other activist organizations, along with local congressional representative Beto O’Rourke, and information on plans for local community involvement.
On a day in December shortly before the inaugural event, Toni began having severe abdominal pain and was rushed to the hospital. A subsequent trip in January, the first of many, revealed that part of her intestine had closed from the radiation treatments she had received and it created a blockage. Toni went into surgery to fix the problem and was in the hospital for two weeks.
Between January and June, she was admitted to the hospital a total of six times. Over the course of these admissions Toni was diagnosed with radiation colitis, which resulted from severe radiation damage she received during prior treatments.
During this time Colt tended to his wife’s needs, worked, and served as executive director of the newly founded El Paso NORML, holding a meeting every month, and cordinating events at local establishments every other month in order to raise awareness about their cause.
In May, Colt along with other members of the group put together El Paso’s very first Global Marijuana March, which received a lot of support from the community and drew local media coverage.
He followed up by attending the Texas Regional NORML Conference in June to help further educate himself about being an activist for reforming marijuana laws.
Colt was also busy visiting with local politicians and engaging with state representative Joe Moody, who is working to introduce a bill in the 2015 state legislative session which would decrease the penalties for possession of marijuana.
On July 4, Toni was admitted to the hospital for the seventh time in 2014, this time for a blockage in her colon. Tests later revealed another mass where her cancer was before.
Facing chemotherapy again, Toni had already lost around 100 pounds between January and July. Before she can go for a second round though, she has to recover from her recent invasive surgery to clear the blockage.
Fearing even more damage from chemotherapy, Toni is considering opting for cannabis oil treatments instead, which have shown some success in killing off tumors.
Marijuana is completely illegal in Texas however, meaning Toni and Colt will have to likely seek the medicine she needs in Arizona where medical marijuana is legal and more potent extracts can be made.
Despite the adversity Colt has faced, he continues to help educate people in his community about cannabis, and admits to consuming it himself.
“I believe that the cannabis plant was put on this earth for a reason and that humans are meant to consume cannabis,” Colt says. “We have an endocannabinoid system so that our bodies can work with the cannabinoids that are introduced into it. I grew up learning about herbs and natural remedies and I believe cannabis is at the top of that class.”
Cannabinoids are an active component of the marijuana plant, one of many. The human body also naturally produces cannabinoids.
Colt says he smokes marijuana because it helps him relax. “I like to enjoy it just as one would enjoy a beer after work. It helps me calm down from a long day, and helps me relieve myself of all negative energy that I may have built up during the day.”
As a community leader, he say’s he’s not concerned about breaking the law when it comes to marijuana. He states, “I like to look back at Martin Luther King, Jr. when I hear that we ‘break’ the law when a consumer chooses to consume cannabis. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said ‘one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.’ I feel the laws are unjust and don’t suit ‘the crime’, which has no victims. No victim, no crime. This is a plant of nature and how we choose to use it should be a natural right of ours.”
He’s not fighting to get high though. According to Colt, it’s about ensuring people aren’t put in jail for a plant and so that patients have safe access to quality medicine.
“People are going to get high, whether it’s illegal or not,” he says.
Toni continues to smoke marijuana and consume cannabis extracts as well, though at times her pain is so unbearable nothing will alleviate it.
The two are accepting donations to help cover medical expenses through a Go Fund Me campaign.
A long road of tough choices lie ahead for Colt and Toni, but their spirit remains strong.
By: Stephen Carter