Pubdate: Wed, 28 Feb 2001
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Contact:  400 W. Seventh Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102
Author: John Moritz
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


An Austin Legislator Is An Unlikely Sponsor Of The Bill, Which Would Let 
Certain Patients Use The Drug.

AUSTIN -- State Rep. Terry Keel of Austin urged a House panel Tuesday to 
approve legislation allowing patients to smoke marijuana if their doctors 
advised them it would ease their suffering better than any legal medication.

But Keel is not an Austin liberal trying to please a college-town 
constituency. He's a former prosecutor and Travis County sheriff who four 
years ago gave up his law enforcement career to run as a Republican for a 
House seat in an increasingly conservative district in suburban north Austin.

"Many of you probably thought I was the last guy in the world to carry 
this," Keel told the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. "But it's good 
public policy. I think it's time we have a full debate on this."

The panel deferred action on House Bill 513 for at least a week. But 
members heard from several witnesses who echoed Keel's argument that 
marijuana has proven effective for relieving discomfort associated with 
such diseases as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

The legislation would not technically legalize the use of marijuana for 
medical purposes, and it would not allow physicians to prescribe it. It's 
worded in such a way to give patients charged with possessing the 
controlled substance the right to argue in court that they were advised by 
a licensed medical doctor that the drug would ease their symptoms.

Keel said doctors would face discipline from organizations such as the 
American Medical Association if they recommended marijuana use for someone 
whose suffering was not severe.

East Texas resident George McMahon said that without medically sanctioned 
marijuana, he would not have been able to endure the pain, spasms and 
nausea he has lived with for more than a decade.

Carrying a tin bearing about 300 marijuana cigarettes into the committee 
room, McMahon, 50, said he is permitted to use the drug under a grandfather 
clause in a now-discontinued federal program.

"Without it, I wouldn't be alive today," he said. McMahon wouldn't reveal 
the exact nature of his medical condition.

Committee Chairman Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, co- author of the bill, said 
the evidence that marijuana has medicinal value is overwhelming. But three 
committee Republicans -- Rick Green of Dripping Springs, Robert Talton of 
Pasadena and John Shields of San Antonio -- appeared to be struggling with 
the notion that Texas might be inching its way toward legalized pot.

"Are we not encouraging them to break the law?" said Green, referring to 
physicians or anyone who would help a patient obtain marijuana.

Keel said that marijuana seeds are not illegal and people who needed the 
plant for medicinal use could plant it themselves.

"Strangely enough," Keel said, "this stuff grows like a weed."
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