Rally at Texas capitol for marijuana takes on new tone
Over 600 people gathered to march through the streets of Austin from City Hall to the Texas Capitol building where they then rallied in support of marijuana law reform on Saturday, enduring a brief rain shower in the process.
Chants rang out, “what do we want?” Answered by “no more drug war!” In particular, an end to the war on cannabis.
The event was put on by Austin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Texas NORML. They put estimated attendance at the event at 710.
Momentum to change marijuana laws in Texas has steadily been building, and has culminated into a record year for activists, with 11 bills pertaining to marijuana, and increased activity all around the state. So far, three bills have passed out of their respective House committees, four if you count the hemp research bill. Another has already made it through the Senate.
Things were emotional at times as speakers at the event hit on some very heartfelt issues, including when a moment of silence was held for all of the people who have had to leave Texas in order to seek refuge in states where medicinal cannabis is legal.
Many groups were represented by speakers, including veterans, patients, children with autism, political groups, and other activist organizations in Texas.
Retired Army veteran Major David Bass, who is now a school teacher and the Veterans Outreach Director for Texas NORML, pressed for the need to access medical cannabis to help treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he himself suffers from and treats with marijuana. He spoke of all the harm which comes with traditional psychotropic drugs prescribed by doctors, and how they decrease the quality of life for veterans.
A moment during Vincent Lopez’s speech defined the teamwork which has taken place this year among activists as four people came together during the windy day to help hold his speech and block the wind which was blowing into the microphone.
Lopez is the director of the Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, and suffers from becker’s muscular dystrophy, which confines him to a wheelchair. That however, did not stop him from participating in over five hours of testimony in a recent committee hearing for medical marijuana.
He spoke of the “hell which patients must go through” and said the choice was clear that they absolutely must have access to medical marijuana.
Representing Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), Amy Lou Fawell spoke about the need to gain medical access to cannabis for children with autism and other medical issues. Her son, Jack, who is 15-years-old, has autism. This prompted her, along with Thalia Michelle, to start MAMMA as a support group for parents with children who have special needs.
“As mothers of children who are sick and suffering we have been called by God to care for our children. All we are asking Texas lawmakers to do is to let us fulfill our calling in the state of our choice, and we choose Texas” Fawell stated. She further questioned whether people should be more concerned about the effects of cannabis on a child’s brain, or the effects of seizures on a developing brain.
Jax Finkel, who is the deputy director of Texas NORML, says the purpose of the march is to support the bills currently in the legislature, and raise awareness about the need to change the laws. She stated during the march that “none of us are free if one of us is chained.”
Finkel asked that there be no acts of civil disobedience during the rally, and aside from a few occasional whiffs of marijuana smoke, attendees were respectful of the request.
Shaun McAlister rounded out the rally as the final speaker. As the Executive Director of DFW NORML and a self-described recreational cannabis consumer, he spoke of the need to be a good representative of the movement and culture through professionalism.
“Today is all about taking a public stand against bad laws in our communities” McAlister stated. He went on to say that the stoner stereotypes on TV are not representative of himself and many other cannabis consumers. Adding, that to rise above the stereotypes, people need to be educated, patient, respectful, responsible, and that their marijuana consumption should not have a negative impact on other people around them; that to be or act otherwise, provides a strong negative perception to others.
“If you are disappointing people that are counting on you in your life because you would rather get high, you’re hurting both your own personal development and potential, and alienating a movement that you are claiming you want to help” McAlister stated. “We’re making progress here in Texas because we continue to put our best foot forward.”
Other speakers at the rally included Zoe Russell with Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, Phillip Martin with Progress Texas, Jason Miller with Houston NORML, Mark Miller who is a former Railroad Commissioner candidate with the Libertarian Party, and Jamie Balagia with San Antonio NORML.
The rally concluded a week of marches across the state where over 6,600 people participated to bring awareness to Texans about the need to reform the state’s marijuana laws. Typically held on the first Saturday in May along with all of the other Global Marijuana Marches across the world, this year the Austin march was moved to the second Saturday, which enabled activists to come together from all across Texas and set a new tone for what marijuana activism embodies and has accomplished in the Lone Star State.
Recent polling data from Texas Tribune shows that 76 percent of Texans want marijuana laws changed, whether it be for penalty reduction, medical, or full legalization.
For pictures from the rally, click here.
By: Stephen Carter
Email Texas Cannabis Report at Contact@txcann.com