- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Medical marijuana advocates in Texas are promoting support from more conservative sources to push longshot legislation that would ease pot laws in a state that’s lagging behind much of the rest of the country on the issue.

Conservative Christian mothers of autistic children and veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder rallied outside the state Capitol on Tuesday, entreating the Republican-majority Legislature to advance two bills legalizing medicinal cannabis, one by San Antonio Democratic Sen. Jose Menendez and one by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, a Brownsville Democrat.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now allow for comprehensive medical marijuana programs, but the Texas bills have nearly no chance of passing.

The country’s largest conservative state, Texas surprised many in 2015 by approving the use of cannabis oil to treat some forms of epilepsy and other medical disorders. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott vowed upon signing that bill into law that Texas would go no further toward marijuana legalization for medical or any other use.

Still, advocates who demonstrated on the Capitol lawn waving “cannabis saves lives” signs are promoting Menendez and Lucio III’s bills. They said the plant could curb symptoms associated with autism and PTSD, and possibly replace multiple drugs with harmful side effects. Texas is home to 1.5 million veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, second-most in the nation behind California.

Amy Fawell, a self-identified “conservative Christian” who quoted Scripture in her plea for marijuana legalization, said pot “is safe and effective for autism” and “is nothing to be afraid of.”

“It is God’s plant and he gave it to us for our good,” said Fawell, whose 17-year-old has autism. Fawell founded a group called Mothers Advocating for Medical Marijuana Austin out of her Bible study group and said cannabis could substitute potentially harmful psychotropic drugs for young children.

Keith Crook, a retired veteran of 23 years who suffers PTSD, said Texas doctors prescribe individuals with the disorder a “deadly cocktail of medicines” that make them feel like “Xanax zombies.”

“My military sisters and brothers in states who can use medical cannabis legally report immediate improvement in mood and drastically reduced if not altogether stopped medication usage,” said Crook, 50, who served as a medical caregiver in the Navy, Marines, and Army Reserve. “Meanwhile Texans, including Texas veterans, choose between suffering and breaking the law.”

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SANCTUARY CITIES

Austin Mayor Steve Adler says he left a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believing that the Texas capital isn’t a “sanctuary city” in the eyes of the federal government.

Adler and other mayors met with Sessions on Tuesday in Washington to get a better understanding of what it means to be considered a “sanctuary community.” The label could cost cities and counties federal grant money as part of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has already denied Travis County some state grant funds for refusing to continue honoring all federal immigration detainer requests.

Adler says he didn’t directly ask Sessions whether Travis County qualifies as a “sanctuary city.” But he said Sessions told him that not honoring voluntary detainer requests wasn’t a punishable violation.

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GENITAL MUTILATION

The Texas Senate has authorized a late push in the Republican-controlled Legislature to ban genital mutilation in the country’s largest conservative state.

Republican Sen. Jane Nelson is sponsoring the measure, which has been co-signed by the other seven women in the state Senate.

The deadline to file new bills has passed, but the Senate voted Tuesday to authorize the new bill and refer it to the powerful State Affairs Committee. Texas’ legislative session ends May 29.

The bill follows a high-profile Michigan case where two doctors have been arrested and charged with performing the procedure on two 7-year-old girls.

Genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision or cutting, is outlawed in the U.S. But the practice is common for girls in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

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FALLEN OFFICER DAY

The anniversary of five Dallas police officers killed during a downtown shooting would be commemorated as “Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day” under a bill tentatively approved by the House.

The measure approved Tuesday would designate July 7 as a day to honor officers in Texas killed in the line of duty. Law enforcement groups say nearly 1,900 officers in Texas history have died on the job.

An Army veteran opened fire on Dallas police during a protest march last summer. It marked the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In all, 12 officers were shot.

The Senate approved a similar measure in March

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CORPSE ABUSE

The Texas Senate has approved a bill making abusing a dead body a felony punishable by at least six months in jail.

Under current law, abuse of a corpse is a state misdemeanor and mandates up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine. Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell’s proposal would make it a felony with a minimum penalty of six months behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines.

Birdwell said current punishments weren’t steep enough in cases where families entrust a loved one’s remains to interment services, only to have abuse occur.

The bill keeps as a misdemeanor the crime of vandalism or property damage related to graves or cemeteries that don’t specifically involve corpses.

It passed 31-0 on Tuesday and now heads to the House.

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ON DECK

The House reconvenes at 10 a.m. Wednesday and will spend hours debating a tough anti-“sanctuary cities” bill that is expected to pass despite the objections of Democrats and immigrant rights groups. The Senate is back in at 11 a.m. but should have a far faster day.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“He said no” - Austin Mayor Steve Adler, on what U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions allegedly told him Tuesday about whether a “sanctuary city” includes not honoring all immigration detainer requests.

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