On a recent Wednesday morning at an auxiliary building of the Texas State Capitol, two conference rooms filled in with people who were very excited to advocate for marijuana.
The crowd on hand for Marijuana Lobby Day included patients, doctors, lawyers and dozens of random marijuana-loving citizens from all over Texas. Much of the crowd was Republican. An organization called RAMP, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, had brought an entire bus to Austin. Not among the gathered: Military veterans or mothers of epileptic children. There are so many of them pushing for marijuana reform in Texas that they have their own lobby days.
Most of the people had already gone through a lobbying training session. The Marijuana Policy Project and Texas NORML have been holding them in such far-flung locations as Amarillo and El Paso. Everyone showed up with their talking points, dressed professionally.
“You guys are looking fine,” an organizer said from the podium.
Only 25 people showed up for the first Texas Marijuana Lobby Day, in 2011. Two years later, close to 50 people, many of them desperately ill, went to the Capitol, pleading for legalized medical marijuana. In 2015, Texas NORML, which had been going it alone, got a wealthy ally in the Marijuana Policy Project, and the number of amateur lobbyists suddenly went up to 300. This year, marijuana has three full-time lobbyists in Texas and two full-time organizers. This year’s lobby day, held Feb. 8, drew 375 people.In one of the conference rooms, Heather Fazio, the Marijuana Policy Project’s Texas point person, got on the mic to tell the activists that this year’s lobbying effort would focus on two bills: One would expand the state’s extremely limited medical marijuana program, and the other would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of weed to a modest fine, similar to a traffic ticket. “Focus on the money that’s being wasted,” she said. “I’m a limited-government girl myself, so that one’s important to me.”