AUSTIN, Texas – Marijuana advocates are using a new campaign ad funded by the Foundation for an Informed Texas in an effort to educate rural Texas about the health benefits of medical marijuana, according to Texas Public Radio. Texas medical marijuana proponents aim to spread the word throughout the state's rural districts to garner more support for the next legislative session. Texas has the most minor marijuana possession arrests in the country.
Foundation for an Informed Texas Supports Legalization
The foundation is an organization working to educate the people of Texas about the biological and physiological aspects of the drug. as well as its socio-economic impacts. The Foundation for an Informed Texas also seeks to educate the community about the legislative process as well as the lawmakers about the health benefits of cannabis.
The ad shows a 51-year-old, unnamed Texas man working on his John Deere and completing tasks on his farm. The native Texan describes how he suffered injuries from several jobs that required physical labor. The farmer describes how the pain medication prescribed by doctors caused severe side effects and eventually became ineffective over time, prompting him to research medical marijuana.
The Texas farmer found that medical marijuana had none of the serious side effects involved with prescription painkillers and was an effective medicine that improved his life considerably. "I like to work outside; I want to hunt; I want to fish; I like to be out on the farm. It truly improved my quality of life," he said, adding that he is more productive with the help of cannabis.
The only condition that currently qualifies for medical marijuana in Texas is intractable epilepsy. "Medical cannabis isn't legal for most Texans," says the farmer. "And that's just not right."
Medical marijuana reduces inflammation rapidly and therefore is more effective at treating certain types of pain than opioids without the toxic side effects. Studies show that patients have been able to decrease prescription painkiller-use by up to 93 percent by replacing opioid prescriptions with medical marijuana. Experts also say that medical marijuana could save thousands of lives every year simply by decreasing the amount of opioid painkiller prescriptions written. At least 45,000 people died from an opioid overdose last year in the U.S.
The executive director of The Foundation for an Informed Texas Jax Finkle says that the group wants to expand the law and hopes to change the stigma associated with weed in Texas before next year's legislative session with the ad campaign.
"We're currently working on building up to do a media buy through cable," said Finkle, adding that they will also hold town hall meetings.
Sixty-One Percent of Texans Approve of Marijuana
Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback is opposed to medical marijuana and says that legalization will lead to more marijuana addiction. The sheriff is also the legislative director for the rural county sheriff's group the Sheriff's Association of Texas and says the group is also against legalization. "This is not an answer for Texas," said Louderback.
Finkel believes that the campaign can change the mindset of Texans through education and will empower voters to use their voices when choosing candidates that support issues important to them. "We think we can make this a more deeply-penetrating issue, and then people can make decisions for themselves," said Finkle.
A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 61 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana. While Sheriff Louderback is opposed to legalization, Rep. Robert "Beto" O'Rourke (D-El Paso) supports ending marijuana prohibition and is challenging pot opposer Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for the Texas Senate. O'Rourke has been endorsed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee.