Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Texans will be seeing — and hearing — a lot of campaign ads. But, on top of the typical election year barrage of political commercials, some rural Texans will also be seeing a very different kind of ad.
When you first see an ad featuring a man in a cowboy hat, you don’t usually expect him to say this: “Medical cannabis isn’t legal for most Texans, and that’s just not right.”
As he talks, clips show the unnamed man fixing a tractor and doing chores on a country homestead. He also describes his struggles to treat work-related injuries before discovering cannabis.
“It’s important to understand that it really is a medicine — it’s a plant-based medicine,” he says. “I like to work outside; I want to hunt; I want to fish; I like to be out on the farm. It truly improved my quality of life.”
Right now in Texas, only a person suffering from intractable epilepsy can be prescribed cannabidiol, or CBD oil, with recommendations from two doctors. This ad is produced by a group called Foundation for an Informed Texas, and its executive director Jax Finkle said they want those laws expanded.
“So we’re working on an education campaign focused on rural Texas so that we can go to people in rural areas so they can understand what kind of program we have in Texas and then understand what medical cannabis really is,” Finkle said.
Finkle said they’re trying to ease negative attitudes towards medical marijuana to get people talking about it before the 2019 legislative session. And this ad campaign is just the beginning.
“We’re currently working on building up to do a media buy through cable, mostly cable and then ultimately when we start doing the town hall meetings, we want to do some banner ads,” Finkle said.
But changing minds won’t be easy, and Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback said that’s a good thing. He lives near Edna, a community northeast of Victoria, with a population just shy of 6,000 people.
“Marijuana addictions are very real and something that law enforcement, for sure Texas sheriffs — we stand against that. This is not an answer for Texas,” Louderback said.
He’s also the legislative director for the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, a group made up of mostly rural county sheriffs.
Louderback said he worries the ultimate motivation behind these ads is to make recreational marijuana legal in Texas.
“You know, it’s beyond a discussion point that marijuana is not a gateway drug into the adoption of a drug culture,” Louderback said.
Jax Finkle said she hopes her group’s media blitz, which begins August 25, can help reverse this type of thinking.
Right now, lawmakers say medical cannabis isn’t the top thing on their minds. State Sen. Charles Perry, a Lubbock Republican, said his constituents aren’t bringing it up.
“At least in the 51 counties I serve, there hasn’t been an overwhelming swell of people running to me saying, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ I think there’s a lot of education yet to be done. I think there is still a lot of momentum to be gained,” Perry said.
Perry said he’s on the fence about expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. He’d like to see more research. But, realistically, he said there is already a lot for lawmakers to tackle ahead of the 2019 session.
“The budget is going to be the biggest issue, and then you throw in Harvey-affected and impacted areas, especially school districts, we’ve got some real infrastructure issues to at least present and deal with, so I don’t think there’s a lot of room for this particular item,” Perry said.
Still, Jax Finkle and her Foundation For An Informed Texas are undeterred. She hopes her group’s campaign will at least help some Texans start to consider the role of marijuana could play in terms of their medical care.