Marijuana activists rally in Waco to strong support
Residents of Waco responded strongly to a rally on Thursday in favor of changing marijuana laws.
During a three hour span beginning at 5:30 p.m. around 25 supporters with the non-profit organization NORML of Waco waved signs at one of the busiest intersections in Waco. Numerous motorists honked and waved in support, including two Waco Transit buses, and a sheriff’s deputy.
At one point two officers with the Waco Police Department pulled up and had participants move off of the medians and on to the sidewalks.
One officer asked an activist if he had any marijuana on him, to which the activist responded “no sir, that would be pretty stupid if I did. We’re running a clean operation here.”
The officer remarked that he had to ask, and then stated that it looked like the group was getting a lot of support. After a few friendly exchanges, the officers went on their way.
Some people who drove by pulled into the parking lot and took pictures while picking up literature being handed out by the group containing various statistics and facts about marijuana. A few motorists drove by with looks of disgust, however most were intrigued.
A variety of signs were held, including “Patient Lives Matter” and “Cannabis = 0 Deaths” along with others supporting hemp and legalization.
Several participants spoke with local media during the rally, answering questions about why they were there.
Clif Deuvall, who is the executive director for NORML of Waco, said the main objective was to raise awareness. “Our job is to educate and throw the stereotype out the window,” Deuvall, 61, said.
Deuvall is a Vietnam War veteran, Baylor University graduate, and former Waco Independent School District teacher.
“We can help sick people,” he said. “If you don’t want to help sick children, I can’t understand your logic.”
While some saw the rally as being for medical marijuana, the group’s deputy director and event organizer Stephen Carter said it was about much more than that.
“There are a lot of people who are suffering,” said Carter, 28, deputy director of the group. “It’s really about saving lives. We’re out here to start conversations which lead to action.”
He added, “77 percent of Texans want to change the law, whether that means decreasing the penalty, medical marijuana, or full legalization. We’re out here because of all the people this plant can help, and for all of the people who have been harmed by prohibition. We have younger people being arrested at an alarming rate and once they have a record, they’re discriminated against for the rest of their lives when they try to go to college, get housing, and seek employment.”
Carter went on to state “When I first got involved with this, I didn’t know anyone who had been arrested for marijuana, didn’t know anyone who could medically benefit from it, and wasn’t even that big into it myself. I have a bit of an activist streak in me. When I see something wrong with the world, I have to get out there and do something about it.”
Michael Barefoot, a 57-year-old registered nurse, attended the rally as well. He held a sign which stated “I’m a patient, not a criminal.”
Barefoot stated that “I came into this movement as a skeptic,” he said. “I was wrong.”
What led him to the movement was his experience working with children suffering from epilepsy and muscular dystrophy.
“We do have something in medical cannabis,” he said. “The research is beginning to back it, but currently the law says no.”
After much consulting with doctors in medical marijuana states and seeing the positive effects the plant has had on patients, Barefoot has gotten on board through working with other nurses, doctors, and patients.
The group hopes that the rally leads to increased attendance at their next meeting later this month.