Jeremy Bourque suffers from epilepsy.
In fact, he recently spent nine days in intensive care in a coma. His epilepsy had gotten worse over the years until he said he found a cure- medical marijuana. The 37-year-old has been using the substance for 18 years.
“The last two years I’ve been successful with what strains are good,” Bourque said. “The medicines I would take I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I take the medical cannabis at night. It also helps with my stomach issues.”
Bourque said on one trip to the hospital, he was told it would be two weeks before he could walk out of there. With medical marijuana, he walked out of the hospital in two days.
“The doctor told me off the record to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said.
Bourque studied the issue before first using the medical marijuana. He said the type he uses are medicinal compounds without psychotropic effects.
“It (marijuana) pushes the bad out,” he said.
Bourque, consequently, was also one of the 100 who attended the inaugural meeting in support of establishing a Southeast Texas chapter of NORML- National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. The organization began in 1970.
Royce Abrego of Orange and Corey Mendes of Beaumont are with NORML and helped organize the initial two-hour long meeting at the Log On Cafe in Beaumont on March 15.
Those in attendance ranged in age from 22 to 83.
Thirty to 40 others spoke at the microphone to give their testimonials for marijuana legalization. Some said they were medical use advocates or non-users themselves.
The meeting mainly consisted of organizing the chapter, background on the organization, fund-raising ideas and receiving donations, the 5013c nonprofit status and planning for community involvement.
It will cost $700 to $1,000 to get a nonprofit started. Attorney Dustin Galmore has agreed to be the legal representative for the Southeast Texas NORML chapter.
The chapter has started a Face Book page and there is also a Texas NORML Face Book page.
Abrego said he didn’t know Mendes was working on starting a local chapter at the same time until they met at the March 15 meeting.  Mendes added he’s been an advocate for NORML for 18 years.
“It (the local chapter) just took off,” Mendes said. “Education is the most important thing. We want to inform everyone and be a successful member of the community. Medical marijuana can change perceptions.”
Part of that education is about the benefits of decriminalizing, or legalizing, medical marijuana used and the agricultural used of hemp.
Abrego said there can’t be any industrial uses for hemp until it’s legalized or decriminalized from a Schedule I controlled substance according to the Drug Enforcement Agency to a Schedule III controlled substance.
Abrego and Mendes added their advocating all-natural and organic marijuana rather than marijuana laced with other substances or synthetic marijuana.
Some of the uses of hemp include hempcrete- a type of concrete that has “huge” industrial and economic value, according to Abrego. One acre of hemp can be produced for paper, textiles and oils.
“Imagine what our petrochemical scientists and labs here can do with hemp. Maybe they can cut benzene use, which is an unsafe carcinogenic, out of the process,” Abrego said. “One acre can produce 700 pounds of grain, compressed 50 gallons of oil, 5,300 pounds of straw and 530 pounds of meal.
No herbicides or pesticides, furthermore, are need to grow hemp.
Mendes said over 30 countries produce hemp and already produce many of these products. The United States also imports some of these products.
Abrego said farmers were encouraged to grow hemp for the war effort during World War I.
Hemp later became illegal after lobbying efforts from big pharmacy companies and major industries, both said.
Currently, 23 states have legalized marijuana one way or another. The process of change has occurred with the majority of the states much the way alcohol was made legal again after Prohibition in the 1920s.
As far as the perception of marijuana being a gateway drug to harder substances, Mendes said marijuana can be used to wean users off of harder drugs. It is used in some rehabilitation facilities in pro-cannabis states. He added the most used drugs, such as caffeine, are legal.
Abrego said 70 percent of voting aged Texans favor some kind of legalization/decriminalization. There’s also mixed opinion in both major political parties in favor.
“This is a people issue that involves our communities. We need to get the right legislators in at the right place and contact these legislators.
“Surprisingly, a majority of the older generation has supported it. They get involved in social media and found they have been misled,” he said.
Decriminalizing marijuana would involve paying a civil fine for use. Currently, a possession charge means losing one’s driver’s license, a loss of student financial aid, professional license, etc.
“The punishment is more detrimental,” Abrego said.
Mendes next switched the topic of employee drug testing.
He believes it will be up to the employer to continue the testing of workers under the influence. Both agreed there need to be better testing methods of employees.
“Synthetic marijuana and prescription pills are the most abuses,” Abrego said.
He added cannabinoids in marijuana can have no psychoactive effects due to minimal or no THC levels and are useful to diabetics and/or brain cancer patients.
“Imagine where our medical practice would be the last 60 to 70 years if we used medical marijuana,” Abrego said. “It is estimated 750,000 are in jail for marijuana possession. It costs $20,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate in the State of Texas versus the $7,000 we spend per school pupil.”
For more information, search for Texas NORML and Southeast Texas NORML on Face Book or e-mail