ODESSA - For years, legalizing marijuana has been a hot topic. Now a bill has been filed in the state legislature that may pave the way for it to happen. House Bill 594 would make medical marijuana legal but some West Texans hope it opens the door to let everyone take a hit.
Recently the state of Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana and now Texas may be added to the list under the condition of allowing only those who need it for medical purposes. The bill was filed and penned by Austin Democrat Elliot Naishtat.
House Bill 594 was filed this week, its aim is to allow physicians to treat their serious patients with marijuana without being penalized. It's a bill that local cannabis supporters are pitching their support for.
"15 medical marijuana states, that are into effect right now and there's more in legislation. So we're almost at the half way point where some states are letting marijuana into their communities and they don't see it as a danger, which is a good thing. We are getting more accepted into it," one supporter said.
The group, "West Texas Cannabis Movement," says not only cannabis could be used for medical purposes but also utilized as a cash crop.
"Clothing, biodegradable plastics, bio fuels, hemp to create houses, there are merited uses for the plant," West Texas Cannabis Movement Coordinator, Christopher Valenzuela, said.
As this new bill could give hope. There's still a challenge of gaining support for it from the community, especially in these parts.
"I think the bible belt is changing. It's not the same bible belt we saw during the Bush era, that has got a lot of people diluted and a lot of people are starting to shake out of that sleep. I think America is starting to wake up," cannabis supporter, Salvador Salgado, said.
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court rejected a petition from a medical marijuana group called "Americans for Safe Access" to reclassify marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. However, Valenzuela says legalizing weed isn't a bad idea financially for states.
"There's so many uses for it, for us as a nation. We don't have the opportunity especially economic crisis that we're in now to be able to turn away such a valuable resource," Valenzuela said.
Another law maker State Representative Harold Dutton, a Democrat from Houston, introduced House Bill 184 that would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor. The penalty would be a fine and no jail time which a suspect could face under the current law.