Texas: Moving Towards Legalizing Marijuana?

November 24, 2009 – Tim Timmons is not your average pot smoker. The former risk management consultant, college professor and stand-out athlete has never considered himself a hippy or a pothead. Even so, Timmons has been smoking marijuana nearly every day for the past six years.

He doesn’t smoke to get high. According to him, he’s just taking his medicine. Timmons is slowly wasting away from Multiple Sclerosis, a painful disease that attacks the nervous system.

“I would be considered in one of the final stages of the disease right now,” Timmons said.

Diagnosed 22 years ago, the former football player and bull rider is now confined to a wheel chair. He is paralyzed from the waist down and no longer has control over his bladder or bowels. Timmons relies on his wife to help him go to the bathroom, take a bath and get in and out of bed.

In addition to losing control of his muscles, Timmons must also live with a great deal of pain and frequent muscle spasms. “The pain is overwhelming, to the extent where you’re in bed the only thing you can do is hold yourself in a fetal position,” said Timmons.

Doctors have prescribed him a virtual pharmacy of powerful narcotics to treat the pain and symptoms his disease causes. At one point he was taking as many as 20 different drugs up to four times a day. Timmons never thought to treat his pain with marijuana until a chance encounter with a former high school classmate at their 30th class reunion six years ago. The man offered Timmons a joint and told him it might help ease his pain. Desperate for anything that could relieve the constant pain, Timmons took a toke. “The pain relief was immediate. And I thought, ‘Whoa, what’s the problem with this if it works this well for people that are in pain,’” Timmons said.

Not long after that first joint, Timmons began looking for someone to supply him with pot. He did some research on the Internet, which led him to a restaurant where he began asking waiters where he could find some marijuana. By the time he left, he had a bag of weed. Timmons now gets his “medicine” from Mendocino, Calif., an area known for producing some of the highest-quality marijuana in the U.S. He said he spends about $480 a month for one ounce which typically lasts him three to four weeks.

While California and 12 other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, pot is still illegal in the state of Texas. Timmons is trying to change that. “You think, ‘Well how is it, it can be helping these people in these other states but it won’t help me in Texas?’” Timmons said as he puffed on a pipe filled with marijuana, taking a deep breath of the white smoke, holding it in a few seconds and exhaling with a smile on his face.

Timmons accidentally became the face of the movement to legalize medical marijuana in Texas when he spoke at the State Capital in 2007 and urged state lawmakers to pass legislation to protect patients. During that speech, he admitted he was a daily pot smoker and invited police to come arrest him, even giving his home address and phone number so they could easily find him. A video of that speech was put on You Tube and has been viewed thousands of times.

Despite his attempts to get arrested, no law enforcement agency has ever taken him up on his offer. Unlike other states that have successfully passed laws legalizing medical marijuana, the focus in Texas is to get lawmakers to pass a bill that gives patients an affirmative defense. Under current law, patients who get caught buying or using marijuana to treat their illnesses can not use that as a defense in court. “You’re barred from mentioning that and how ludicrous is that. That you can’t even tell the jury why you were doing it. You just have to sit there and be silent,” Timmons said.

“We are not even trying for medical marijuana in Texas. We’re trying to simply get it to where someone in the position like me would at least be able to offer an affirmative defense to the jury and say, ‘This is why I was breaking the law.’” The first attempt to get medical marijuana legislation passed was in 2001. Every bill that’s been introduced each session since then has died in committee.

Timmons believes socially conservative politicians are unwilling to risk their political careers on such a hot button issue, particularly one that has the medical community at odds. For years many doctors and medical organizations have stated pot has no medical benefit. Many of those same doctors and groups, including the American Medical Association, are now changing their attitude when it comes to medicinal uses for marijuana, calling for more serious studies. “I have to believe that there might be some medicinal effects of it, and if science can prove that it can be delivered in a form that isn’t harmful, great,” said Joel Marcus, a Clinical Psychologist at the UT Health Science Center’s Cancer Therapy and Research Center.

Marcus is one of a handful of psychologists who are helping cancer patients deal with the effects of living with cancer. He said many of his patients ask him about using marijuana to relieve the nausea and vomiting that come with their radiation treatments. Marcus tells them to stay away.

“I can’t in any good conscience recommend something that could be carcinogenic,” Marcus said.

“I see far too many patients living with and dying from lung cancer to say go ahead and smoke anything.” Instead Marcus, and many other doctors, offer patients a drug called Marinol which is a synthetically produced version of the main chemical in marijuana that gets you high and relieves pain — that chemical is THC.

In fact Marinol is the only legal “medical marijuana” available in the U.S. that is approved by the Federal Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Still, patients like Timmons said they tried Marinol and found that it doesn’t work as well as real marijuana. Patients said Marinol takes up to three hours to begin working, whereas taking one toke of a joint provides instant relief. Those patients also said marijuana can be ingested into the body without smoking it.

In most medical marijuana dispensaries in California, patients can buy baked goods and candy made with pot. Joel Marcus said the jury is still out on the effectiveness of those types of delivery methods for medicinal marijuana but he’s keeping an open mind on the subject. “I’m all in favor of finding out new methods of controlling symptoms,” Marcus said. “We’re all about quality of life and improving quality of life, and if a study of the medicinal properties of marijuana in a butter form or a liquid form or in some other way that isn’t carcinogenic could provide relief for or patients, I’m all for it.”

Until science can prove pot is medicine patients like Timmons say they will continue to break the law to get the medicine they need. “If I can break the law as many times as I possibly can to help someone else that’s in a similar situation escape the pain and actually function and become a part of the procession of life, then heck man, I’m all for breaking the law,” he said.


3 responses to “Texas: Moving Towards Legalizing Marijuana?”

  1. Be careful and make sure that Growing for Medical reasons can be used as a defense also,
    Here in Ohio a woman was arrested and charged and when the Hamilton County Prosecutor found out she was going to use “Medical Use” as a Defense, He “CHANGED” the Charges to “Illegal Manufacture of Drugs” which has NO Medical Defense here in Ohio, Anything they can do to put another Dangerous senior citizen in jail,(Sarcasm),I guess Granny is a real Dangerous Criminal and so is her husband now for letting her grow it, Now her Self-Employed truck Driver husband will lose his CDL and livelihood for an Herb which he NEVER consumed. I guess they are getting some kind of Perverted pleasure in destroying other peoples lives in the interest of MONEY!!! Have to keep the Body count Inflated to justify the requests for MORE Federal Anti-Drug funds. Legalize Cannabis and REMOVE this Corruption Incentive.

  2. I suffer from 8 failed back surgeries over the last 15 years. The scar tissue from all the surgeries is all through my spinal canal causing awful back, leg and hip pain constantly. I have two implants installed one is a stimulator for the numbnes and pain down my legs and the latest one which I got from my pain management doctor is a morphine pump. It delivers morphine along with other drugs to stop the crippling back pain. Along with those I still take about 5 to 6 strong pain meds each day with other muscle relaxers, it’s alot of pills I have to take to live a somewhat normal life! I would love to be able to get and use marijuana for my pain but living in Texas I am so afraid of being arrested and having to go to jail for any length of time sitting or laying on their cold concrete floors, I just couldn’t do it! I am 59 years old and I believe that if there’s something out there that is all natural and not a bunch of chemicals to control my pain and rest then why in the world couldn’t I be allowed to get and use it? I am not a young child that would damage my brain or my life using marijuana I am a grandmother suffering everyday and I feel we have paid in enough taxes in our life time to be allowed this small vise to improve my lifestyle. Please to who ever is in charge to get marijuana legalized in Texas then please think about it strongly for the sake of us lifelong Texas residents living and paying all our life, please allow us an option to a healthier way of managing our pain. Thanks for you consideration, Gwen Stokley

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