AUSTIN, Texas - Under the Texas Compassionate Use Act, only patients suffering from intractable epilepsy are allowed to access medical cannabis. Some believe the program needs to be expanded to offer relief to other Texans with debilitating medical conditions, including veterans.

  • Texas restricts access to medical marijuana
  • Veterans shed light on issue at Texas State Capitol Monday
  • Veterans say marijuana a viable alternative to addictive opioids 

An exhibit inside one of the hallways of the State Capitol on Monday hoped to shed light on the need to increase veterans’ access to medical marijuana. Hundreds of prescription pill bottles belonging to veterans from across the state filled a wooden coffin. Each bottle contained a message to state lawmakers about why those veterans believe the state needs an expanded medical marijuana program.

An American Legion survey said one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition. Some Texas veterans said the treatment helps them with a number of health issues related to their service.

David Bass, the director of veterans outreach for Texas NORML and founder of Texas Veterans for Medical Marijuana, said when he returned from Iraq in 2005, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was also dealing with chronic pain from the injuries he sustained during his past 25 years of service in the U.S. Army.

“I have met literally thousands of veterans all over the state of Texas going all the way back to the Korean War, who use cannabis as medicine, but were treated as criminal in our state and we’re not criminals,” Bass said.

Dozens of Texas veterans were also spending the day learning about the marijuana bills that have already been filed at the Legislature, as well as meeting with lawmakers. One bill would include other parents to qualify under the Compassionate Use Act, another would allow doctors to determine how much THC should be in treatment.

“Many of our brother and sister veterans become addicted to opioids, the psychotropic medications have terrible side effects,” Bass said.