Texas GOP Adds Hemp Cultivation to Platform, Votes Against Support for Medical Marijuana

Guest Post by Jason Miller, Houston NORML

The 2014 Texas GOP Convention wrapped up Saturday, June 7th, after a long week of debate and testimony concerning medical marijuana. Supporters of marijuana reform, including several members of RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition) along with other medical marijuana advocates, including parents, veterans, and medical doctors, gave testimony in favor of an amendment to the platform in support of allowing Texans access to medical cannabis.

It seemed like a short-lived victory when the Temporary Platform Committee passed the amendment after listening to emotional testimony from those whose loved ones could benefit or have benefited from medical cannabis. The Chairman of the committee broke the tie and the amendment passed by a 15-14 vote. In addition, a plank supporting Hemp Cultivation passed the committee and made it into the final platform.

The following day, the Permanent Platform Committee met and voted on the medical marijuana amendment. This was the day I arrived at the convention after driving up to Fort Worth from Houston. My second time attending the Texas GOP Convention as a delegate, I was excited to hear about what was happening in the committees and was eager to help.

Rewind to August 2013 when I first met Ann Lee. After being involved with NORML for the past 4 years as a corporate sponsor to the legal seminars in Aspen and Key West, I had heard of Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University, but I didn’t know the full extent of his story until hearing it from his mother. Ann Lee was visiting a group in Houston that several of my friends help organize called Liberty on the Rocks. Along with a representative from Houston NORML, originally co-founded by Richard Lee, Ann Lee spoke to us and her words resonated.

She told us about growing up in Louisiana during segregation (Ann Lee is in her mid-eighties, she’s even older than marijuana prohibition itself), and she spoke of how unfairly people were treated and how unfairly minorities are treated today due to the enforcement of marijuana prohibition. She told us about her 5 sons, including educator and entrepreneur Richard Lee, who was injured in a workplace accident, leaving him in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. She told us about being a Republican activist since the 1970s and how she co-founded the group “Women for Reagan” in 1983, the year I was born. She told us about her husband, Bob Lee, and how they had initially reacted when Richard told them he uses medical marijuana to help with his muscle spasticity and neuropathic pain.

Ann and Bob Lee founded RAMP in 2012. After much reflection, they had reached the conclusion that prohibition of marijuana is directly opposed to all of their Republican values. I was immediately intrigued upon learning about this. My interest in both party politics and marijuana policy were now being fused together by this idea. I immediately approached Ann and started asking her about RAMP. She handed me a little brochure with the Republican logo with three pot leaves instead of stars. My first thought was “OK, this organization really needs a new logo.”

Fast-forward to 2014, new logo, website, social media, and a network of young people helping Ann Lee with RAMP. We’re ready to make an impact. We’ve formed a team, including John Baucum, President of Houston Young Republicans. We’d worked a great deal on networking and outreach, held our inaugural meeting, and conducted several interviews with news media. We knew a lot of people in Houston’s conservative scene and we knew many of them would be serving as GOP delegates.

Upon my arrival to the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth on Thursday, I knew that I had a mission. The vote on the medical marijuana amendment was to take place later this day and the outcome was going to depend heavily upon how the Permanent Platform Committee was to shape up. Our strategy was to try to push anyone off the committee who voted against us and replace them with someone who is supportive.

In my Senate District, our platform committee representative had voted against medical marijuana. So I started talking to people. I thought about who would make a good candidate and one person came to mind, a Military Veteran, an author, and a frequent lecturer on conservative issues. Although medical marijuana was not the primary issue, I knew this person would be supportive. At this point there’s a lot of whispering going on in the hallways, people pulling each other aside and talking under their breath. I knew that a good number of people would unite behind this candidate, and I was able to feel confident in my ability to “whip the votes.”

Time was of the essence. I ran across the street to the Omni Hotel and printed up flyers, highlighting the candidate’s qualifications. After some trouble with the printer, I made it back to the convention just in time. I walked into our SD Caucus and handed everyone the flyers. There were two other candidates in the race for platform committee. Although my preferred candidate did not win, we pulled about 30% of the vote and made an impact on the outcome of the race.

Immediately after the SD Caucus, the Permanent Platform Committee met and the moment of truth was upon us. There was a great deal of commotion outside the meeting room because it wasn’t big enough to seat everyone. People were outside the door yelling for them to relocate the meeting to a larger space. Some of the committee members had changed due the immigration plank of the platform, which was the most contentious issue up for debate. I tried to peer into the room to see who was on the committee. I was curious to find out any of our people were elected to the committee in other senate districts, but I assumed they didn’t have any better luck than I did.

The medical cannabis amendment failed. Some of the committee members, who supported the amendment the day before ended up changing their vote. This may have been due to our opposition whipping the votes against us. However, an additional amendment supporting “research into the medical efficacy of cannabis” was introduced by a member of the committee and passed. Unfortunately, our opposition filed a ‘minority report’ signed by 9 members of the committee in support of striking this language from the platform.

Perhaps the most amazing revelation was that another ‘minority report’ was filed, signed by 8 members of the committee, in support of adding the original medical cannabis amendment back into the platform. This was huge. A clear message was sent that support for medical cannabis is alive and well in the Texas GOP. We considered this to be a major victory because the issue would be up for debate during the general session on Saturday when the platform is adopted by the entire delegation.

On Friday morning, we arrived at the Fort Worth Convention Center at 6:00am, with 2000 RAMP newsletters in hand. Volunteers, including founders of the group MAMMA (Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism) Thalia Michelle and Amy Lou Falwell, helped line seats with our literature. This day, we decided to forget about the platform and the stress, it’s time to network, educate people about medical cannabis, conduct interviews with media, and talk to as many elected officials as we can.

On Saturday morning, several of us arrived early to get spots near each of the four microphones in the general convention arena. We wanted to make sure we were able to testify in support of medical cannabis. As the platform adoption process started, medical cannabis was the first topic up for debate. Our minority report in support of adding the amendment back in to the platform was introduced from the stage.

Ann Lee spoke in favor of this amendment and told her story. She told the delegation about her son Richard and his injury. She used her entire 5 minutes of testimony and made a very clear point that garnered a great deal of applause, “Why should the federal government be able to prevent us from using a natural medicine that is clearly beneficial to sick people?”

One person spoke in opposition to the amendment and tried to convince the delegation that Marinol and medical marijuana are the same thing, which is clearly false.

Dr. Teryn Driver, a delegate from League City, made an emotional argument about children suffering from epilepsy and passionately educated the delegation about Cannibidiol (CBD).

A motion was made to end debate and the crowd voted in favor of it. (The delegation will typically always vote in favor of anything that moves the process along faster). We then voted on adding the medical marijuana amendment back into the platform and it failed. We expected this to happen.

The next item of business is the ‘minority report’ striking the support for research into the medical efficacy of cannabis from the platform. Zoe Russell, the assistant executive director for RAMP, spoke in opposition to striking this language; she testified that Texas prides itself on medical innovation and that getting our federal government out of the way of promising research will be a tremendous benefit to our medical community. She pointed out that Republicans don’t like federal interference in our healthcare choices and that should include the ability to conduct medical research. Her remarks were met with cheers and applause.

Immediately following Zoe’s testimony, debate was cut off. A vote was taken, but it wasn’t clear. After a bit of demagoguery by the Chairman and a clarification that a no vote would leave the language in the platform, the vote was taken again. It was very close, but the yes votes won and the language supporting research of medical cannabis was stricken from the platform.

Our opposition’s only real strategy was to cut off testimony as quickly as possible. They don’t want the delegation to hear our message. They don’t want any discussion about changing these laws. But we’re having the discussion. We’re winning over the hearts of minds of people, and we had been doing it all week. After the convention ended, I made my way down the road about 4 blocks to the Texas Regional NORML Conference. Exhausted, I dragged myself into the conference and took a seat.

Overall, the Texas GOP Convention was a huge success. We’re furthering the discussion about marijuana reform among Republicans and we’re having fun in the process. My time spent in Fort Worth was well worth it. I learned a lot about politics and procedure, activism and how to communicate and network with people. We met supporters from all over the state and we expanded our network. We’re now gearing up for the 2015 legislative session and we’re determined to legalize marijuana in the great state of Texas.

It ain’t gonna legalize itself.

Stay up to date on NORML Houston’s activities by following them on Facebook here.

22 thoughts

  1. Happy things are changing on this issue. Have been a Republican since eighth grade. Have smoked pot since 10th grade. Raised a daughter without help from her dad, she is now in military intel. I have a college degree. And oddly enough I have taken the standardized IQ test three times in my life (that is another story,) but I took one in 4th grade, one in 11th grade, and one when I was forty. My scores…drum roll… 119-118-119.
    Yet I still have to live like a second class citizen, have had to work for myself most of my life due to drug testing at corporate jobs. And just fyi I have been fairly successful in my businesses. I just wish I were not stigmatized for my choice of recreation. Oh also pot helps with IBS and headaches.

    That was the most enlightening story on current Texas marijuana policy ever!
    …but, you didnt explain how in Texas Hell in July that the hemp amendment passed? “A plank supporting hemp?” We want details!
    Its very unfortunate the GOP didnt jump on medicinal… This will cost them dearly. Did you tell them theyre just handing the vote to Wendy Davis? All she has to do is say “yes medicinal marijuana,” and get the vote.
    But to hear that the GOP supports hemp… Well that just warms my heart.
    Im proud of your work. You really set the standard for what we can achieve with a concerted effort from NORML. Ive met people from MAMMA and RAMP at the March in Austin May 3rd, and I was relieved to see some competant movement from the GOP.
    I myself am on the fence about this issue. There has been so much faux-pro marijuana legislation coming from the Texas GOP that I wonder whose platform is better.
    But after watching the purchased campaign for Democratic Agricultural Commissioner, I have to wonder if this “dark horse” Jim Hogan is any better an alternative.
    I guess its up to a pro-cannabis agricultural Commissioner for the Republicans to decide this vote.
    Fascinating. Thanks Keith.

  3. (Sorry, thanks anyway Keith… I sure thought I saw your name here…). Shall I say THANK YOU Erik and Jason! Your work is so vital to our cause. If this event proves anything its that America is either green or violet more than red or blue. Keep up the good work.

  4. What this tells me is TEXAS want`s me to go all the way blind. You see I have glaucoma bad. I have had 3 eye surgery. I`m on 4 eye drop`s. But go back to 2005 I was on 1 eye drop and used cannabis and this had been working for years. But in 2005 cops came in my house and saw my 5 plants. I gave the cops papers 1 was about Norml 2 was the life story on Robert c Randall and his law case 3 MY MEDICAL REPORTS. AND THIS IS WHAT I SAID to THE COPS… I`m willing to go to jail for life I will not accept a deal. I will get this to 12 people to here the case. I WILL GET MEDICAL CANNABIS IN TEXAS. The cops called the DA`S office. HE DID NOT WANT THE CASE. AND I DID NOT GO TO JAIL.One year later not smoking cannabis I went blind in my left eye.so don`t` tell me cannabis will not help GLAUCOMA. I have just little site left in my right eye.I`m 60 years old SO PLEASE, PLEASE TEXAS LET ME USE MEDICAL CANNABIS SO I CAN SEE A LITTLE TILL I DIE. I DON`T WANT TO LIVE BLIND. AND MY TIME IS RUNNING OUT.

  5. I still cant belive it made it this far. We could have hemp. Medical will be comeing. In Texas. If we dont give up and force the debates

  6. I believe that the quickest way for our country to end marijuana prohibition is to vote for Democrats except in those rare instances where a Republican candidate has specifically stated their willingness to end it and stop the madness! As far as I can see, it is primarily the Republicans that want to continue this extremely expensive and destructive war against peaceful cannabis consumers; but with a few exceptions that should be noted!

  7. I have several health problems and take way too many meds, whereas medical marijuana would replace the pain meds, the muscle relaxers, the anti-anxiety and sleep meds. these pills are killing me! Marijuana never hurt anyone. This is all simply due to Texas having a corrupt government. I know. I used to work in law enforcement. Keeping pot illegal is completely insane and criminal of our state officials!

  8. Thank you RAMP, thank you MAMMA, and every activist for our movement. This last weekend I was wearing my votehemp hat turning my booth at the Lavender Festival into a latent Hemp History Week booth. I was thinking about the odds I was up against, looking at the blue haired old ladies serving food and beer, staring at my hat with a curious smile. I remembered the concern from the Chamber of Commerce;”Hemp? In Blanco? I dont know if were ready for that…”
    Nonetheless, I sold out of hemp-lavender soap. Then I read this blog and it blew my mind… The TexasGOP supports hemp? Could there be a chance to pass legislation next year?
    Were supposed to get some rain later this year, but the lakes are still low and we could still get another drought down the road. If we dont diversify our crops now, there could soon exist the day Texans wont have corn or cotton as viable, sustainable crops.
    I look forward to see what hemp legislation is born of this vote.
    Thanks again everyone.

  9. To bad the GOP so often holds its political ideology above science. This is not a strategic approach that will take them to success in the 21st century. Give them power, and the USA will loose its political preeminence within a generation.

  10. As someone that used to vote for Republicans, I too find their endless support for everything they say the hate is what did them in for me.

    Marijuana Prohibition is in direct conflict with the values the Republican Party says it supports. I.e. they are just pieces of shit not even worth talking, never mind voting for. They lie to your face constantly in support of their hyper-liberal agenda of raising taxes to keep innocent people in jail via marijuana fears. They still think marijuana is a threat, when really they are the threat.

  11. I talked to a man once who was vehemently against marijuana legalization, whether it was for medical purposes or otherwise. I questioned that if he were suffering terribly and marijuana was the only thing available to relieve his suffering, would he accept the relief or would he reject the drug. He responded that he would rather lie there and suffer until the end. I ended the conversation because he was getting upset and I realized that nothing was ever going to change his mind. I guess 70 years of lies and propaganda had made such an impression on him that he had somehow come to think of marijuana as something so terrible and evil and he just couldn’t listen to reason even if he had seen evidence to the contrary, right in front of his face. Every day, however, the proponents of legalization are growing in number and one day soon, we will out number the prohibitionists by such a huge margin and then,we will prevail. Until then, we have NORML to help us identify all politicians who are fighting against legalization. Remember in November. Vote them out.

    …Yet Hemp is Still On the Agenda.
    We know from reading this well written article by Erik Altieri and Jason Miller that marijuana (THC) has been pushed off the agenda for at least the GOP, but hemp is emerging as a serious platform in Texas. We know law enforcement and Big Pharma dont want medicinal marijuana, but what makes industrial hemp so attractive to the GOP? I mean, besides getting to stand by a 6ft tall hemp plant and pretend you can smoke it and get high?
    Big Oil needs hemp to stabalize the price of crude, especially since corn failed to supply cellulosic ethanol during the 2011 drought. Hemp could be grown in an industrial zone all around the Galveston/East Texas area to supply refinieries with immediate access to celulosic ethanol that uses half the water than corn does while producing twice the celulose, protein for feed, and fiber for textiles and clothing.
    With the Middle East erupting into chaos and fracking running out of water, this should come as no suprise, but the irony is quite historic; It was partly the petrochemical industry that outlawed cannabis in the first place, 75 years ago. (DuPont/Anslinger)
    So who are our prospective candidates for Agricultural Commissioner in Texas? After all, this underestimated position decides how to regulate Texas water and soil supplies, supplies school lunches, and will surely play a lead role in regulating Texas hemp.

    Jim Hogan says “God made me win this race.” and “Anyone can google my name, so why should I spend campaign money or have a web site?”
    …Uhh… So your voters know you’re not just some Dark Horse Nazi Puppet trying to steal land from the Kiowa Comanche and Apache on the Red River border?
    That’s right, the “Nobody” who thinks God helped him win candidacy for Democratic Agricultural Commissioner of the great state of Texas appears to have a leak of information; despite Jim Hogan’s deliberate efforts to keep his platform from being revealed, The Clarksville Times reports that Jim Hogan won %84.59 of the vote in Red River County because he surprisingly took a stand on the dispute between the Red River Compact that claims that thousands of acres of land in Oaklahoma belong to Texas because the Red River “migrates seasonally.”
    The land in question is full of oil and natural gas.
    Except there’s one problem… The land in question belongs to the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Indian Nations “protected” by a 100+ year old treaty signed by the United States government. …not that this would stop a greedy oil company from infiltrating U.S. Politics to steal some land…
    So now we finally know that the “pale face” on a “dark horse” Jim Hogan was purchased by oil interests to secure stolen oil rich property that the Republicans in Texas have been trying to steal since at least the year 2000 when George W. Bush was governor.

    (This reporter was part of an activist group in College that tried to stop the Red River Compact while he was an American-Indian history student of Hugh Fitzimmons, the Democratic candidate that mysteriously lost to both Jim Hogan and Kinky Friedman although Hugh was endorsed by every major Texas newspaper. Kinky rode on a marijuana platform, but was barely defeated May 27 th during a special election runoff by the “no platform” Jim Hogan).

    For the record, the K.C.A. (Kiowa Comanche Apache), dont want their land polluted with oil, they just want to keep their hunting grounds as promised. Of course, thats going to be hard to do if the land is stolen by Texas because Texas doesnt honor public lands like the state of Oaklahoma and will charge property taxes that the K.C.A. Cant afford to pay.
    So how would The Republican candidate for Ag. Commissioner, Sid Miller, handle this issue?

    Let’s see; Tea Party favorite Sid Miller was endorsed by Prick Perry, His campaign treasurer was Ted Nugent, and he reportedly supports stealing land from helpless schoolchildren if he thinks there’s oil under the ground.
    Thats not true; Miller wouldnt steal the land; He would just send Ted Nugent all tanked up to holler political profanities at the kids in the school auditorium until they’re forced to abandon school grounds and THEN he would start drilling for oil.

    So WTF? What kind of choice do we have here? A guy who will break 100 year old treaties with our Indian brothers and sisters? Or a guy would not only break those treaties but unleash Ted Nugent on a bunch of innocent school children?
    The answer is the same for the war in Afghanistan, South and Central America and here in the good ol U.S.ofA.;
    Stop drilling our soil and water away and LET’S GROW HEMP.
    And I dont mean just a few farmers, I mean everyone GROW HEMP FOR THEMSELVES.
    All those trains loading dirty Canadian Shale to boats headed for China could be carrying hemp to process into refinieries in Galveston.
    Manufacturing and processing of hemp could and will be localized to relieve logistical expenses.
    As oil demand increases, Exxon/Mobile, BP, Chevron and the like will have a socioeconomically stable demand for oil that will keep prices from going too high or too low by supplementing celulosic ethanol from a domestically grown hemp supply.
    The American Chemistry Council could allow plastics to be made of sustainable hemp oil instead of finite crude oil to relieve the burden on dwindling oil supplies.
    Wars over crude oil supplies could END.
    We spend the revenue on EDUCATION.
    And perhaps… Just PERHAPS… We could then get crude oil and petrochemical industries out of pouring money into all sides of American politics…That is…
    Until Ted Nugent gets in front of a camera and starts cursing again…
    …Somebody get me a tomahawk…

  13. Can’t Soros or another wealthy supporter do as ASA has been doing and do the “this rep voted for” and “this rep voted against” commercials? I am a Texan and many of us would like to see Medical here, but don’t know where our reps, or those on the ballots, stand on the issue.

  14. Think about imitating the Brits again, and “Feed the Birds” which is a current campaign to plant hemp seeds. They are doing it publicly which results in lots of plants getting pulled the moment some enemy notices them. The “Brownspliff” variant addresses this by planting plants where they won’t be noticed till they have had a chance to grow to maturity and achieve seed dispersal.

    Roll up potting soil, compost etc. in paper napkins or paper bags (the “brownspliff”, named after the Brown that went down prior to the present Cameron) with a seed or two inside each one. Ride your bike at night with a big rucksack of these spliffs, and a sharp-pointed dibblestick (google that). Where you see a neglected bush, hedgerow etc., make a hole among the roots and stand a brownspliff in it. Ride another 200 yards and plant the next one.

    The plant gets a good start, receives shade and waterdrippage, grows to maturity unnoticed and its seeds provide a surge of wild hemp everywhere. The bigots give up and forget worrying about it since the hemp is Republican-approved anyway, this just gets the job done sooner.

  15. @Mexweed;
    Excellent idea for Texas.
    @those of you who posted about abstaining from weed after getting caught, (especially with Glaucoma), for God’s sake get a vaporizer! If youre on probation in Texas and have a medical illness go to planet K and purchase a cleanser!

  16. Current D1 football player. I really appreciate what yall are doing out there. Having had numerous injuries including surgery, marijuana has been key in my speedy recoveries. I never enjoyed being all doped up on hydrocodons and other heavy medication. High grade marijuana helps with my pain and mental state on a whole nother level. Once again, thank you, and keep up the hard work!

  17. this country has been brainwashed about the effects of cannabis far to long// its time for the american people to take back this country enough damn government there are so many positive things that cannabis can do for people//i have osteo arthritus now i have diabetiz every single pharma drug they put me on makes me sick //wound up in the hospital on liptor and viox thought i was having a heart attack///now they have tried 3 different types of damn pills for diabetiz ////chit just makes me sick ///i have chose to use medicinal cannabis to help with the pain i live with ////..this country has become to greedy //we need the common people running this country not a bunch of rich barrons//// republicans demmocrats indaviduals ///its time to unite as one people americans ///im tired of seeing the bickering ///i will be voting for medicinal cannabis when its on the ballot i read and tell everbody about norml////keep up the good work norml

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