Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Author: Christy Hoppe, The Dallas Morning News
Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Copyright: 2005 The Dallas Morning News
Austin, Texas -- Chris Cain, a quadriplegic, said for 10 years he took
the heavy prescription narcotics that weakened his spasms but left him
in "a zombie-like state," unable to work, interact or venture out of his
Then a doctor recommended that he try marijuana, Mr. Cain told lawmakers
during a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would allow the use of marijuana
for medical reasons.
Only a little stopped the spasms and allowed him to function. He got off
the pills in 1994.
"I was able to start leaving my house and going to places with friends.
I was able to start working again," Mr. Cain said.
Now 36, he runs a successful computer-based consulting business. Mr.
Cain said marijuana gave him his life back.
And it has made him a criminal.
In July 2003, seven sheriff's cars and two police helicopters converged
on his house in Kountze in southeast Texas. A misdemeanor amount of
marijuana was seized. Mr. Cain said the officers took his computers and
threw him in jail without nursing care.
The case remains pending, he said.
Under a bill by Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, using marijuana for
bona fide medical reasons would be an "affirmative defense" in court,
resulting in dismissed charges. The bill also provides protection for
doctors who wish to recommend marijuana to their patients.
"This bill is not about legalizing marijuana. It's about allowing sick
people ... to defend themselves in court if they are arrested and
tried," Mr. Naishtat said.
He also said that some doctors fear discussing marijuana with patients
because they could face medical disciplinary actions.
Ten other states allow for medical uses of marijuana, which experts
testified can be more beneficial than prescription drugs to treat such
conditions as wasting disease, chronic nausea and severe muscle spasms.
"We shouldn't be treating patients like criminals," said Dr. Rael Nidess,
a retired urologist who said he saw the benefits of marijuana,
especially with multiple sclerosis patients he treated.
He said especially for terminally ill patients, marijuana works better
in some cases than sedatives and other narcotics by providing pain
relief but also allowing the patient to continue to function and
Criminal Jurisprudence Chairman Terry Keel, R-Austin, said that the vast
majority of his constituents in his conservative district favor allowing
the medical use of marijuana. "This doesn't need to wait another
session," he said.
About 10 people spoke in favor of the bill, with no one in opposition.
The bill was left pending in committee.
Rep. Juan M. Escobar, D-Brownsville, said that after spending decades in
law enforcement, he initially opposed the bill, but letters, phone calls
and testimony has made him reconsider.
"I've got to look at my soul and say this is something we have to look
at," Mr. Escobar said.
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