Pubdate: Sun, 27 Sep 2015
Source: Stephenville Empire-Tribune (TX)
Copyright: 2015 Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Author: Sara Vanden Berge


Colleen McCool is not what most people envision when they think of a pot user.

But at 69-years-old, McCool is just that.

She and her husband live separately on property they own in 
Stephenville, but what they do still share is a fondness for 
marijuana, which she says helps them cope with a variety of health 
issues, including depression.

"I lost a son and it really helped me deal with that post traumatic 
stress," she said. "It also helps with my knee and back problems. It 
elevates my mood and makes me not notice the pain as much."

But these days, McCool is being forced to deal with the pain without 
the relief she says marijuana provides.

Last week, Erath County sheriff's deputies raided her home and 
confiscated 25 marijuana plants she and her husband were growing on 
their property.

The 13-acre property is in a subdivision near the cheese plant. The 
area is speckled with beautiful homes separated by acres of open land.

McCool's house was built in 1991, and getting to it is a chore.

The house sits deep into the property, hidden by trees and foliage 
and can only be reached on foot.

On the day of the raid - Thursday, Sept. 17 - McCool was inside her 
home surrounded by her cats and dogs when she heard a helicopter.

"I heard them buzzing over my house. They were flying really low, 
just above the trees," she said. "I was feeling a lot of anxiety."

About 30 minutes later she heard commotion outside and was ordered to 
walk out of the house with her hands up.

When she did, she was greeted by several deputies and their guns.

 From recreation to necessity

McCool said she began smoking marijuana in the 1970s.

"I did it with friends for recreation," she said.

Before moving to Stephenville, McCool was a staff writer for the 
Sweetwater Reporter and covered a trial involving two men accused of 
working in a large pot growing operation in Sweetwater.

One of those men caught McCool's attention. Soon after the trial was 
over the two began dating and later married.

They are now separated but remain close friends.

Her husband, who is 67, approved of McCool's decision to talk to the 
E-T, but we are not identifying him because he did not take part in 
the interview.

As they got older and their health began to decline, McCool said they 
sought marijuana for relief and began growing it on their property 
about 10 years ago.

She said they don't buy marijuana from other people, nor do they sell it.

"We plant in the spring and harvest in the fall," she said. "We try 
to grow enough to last us a year. It's for our health. We want to 
stay off pharmaceuticals."

She said her husband uses a walker, oxygen machine and has heart problems.

Until recently she smoked marijuana daily while he prefers to use it as an oil.

What's next?

McCool said the deputies appeared shock when she walked outside with 
her hands up.

"I'm not sure they were expecting me," she said with a laugh.

McCool, who has three grown daughters and two grandchildren, hardly 
looks the part of a hardened drug lord.

She has a difficult time walking and speaks softly, but is passionate 
about her desire to decriminalize marijuana.

"If they ever legalize it, it will be transforming to medicine," she said.

In fact, McCool's passion about the issue has prompted her to write 
dozens of letters to the editor over the years supporting the cause.

She recently started a Facebook page - Erath County Community 
Outreach - she hopes will educate people about marijuana use and 
spark an honest discussion.

She also believes her desire to speak openly about the issue has made 
her a target.

"I believe I am being harassed because of my work," she said.

McCool has not been charged with any crime, but knows that could change.

"I don't want to borrow trouble," she said. "I haven't been charged 
with anything so I don't have an attorney. But I believe what I am 
doing is right, and they are wrong."
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