'Legalize Vernon' event draws people from around parish, beyond

LEESVILLE -- Debra Cole said she's never smoked marijuana and probably never will, but her husband, who is in remission from cancer and who has an injured knee, wants a treatment option other than prescription drugs.

"His doctor at MD Anderson said that it's not a matter of if it comes back, it's when. Now, he's got a blown knee and he's in severe pain but we watched my sister die from prescription drugs," Cole said.

Cole was one of  around 150 people who gathered Saturday at a legalization event in Leesville, sponsored by the group, "Legalize Vernon." It was held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

Cole heads up "Legalize Beauregard," out of DeRidder. The Vernon and Beauregard groups -- and similar ones around the state -- fall under the statewide group, "Legalize Louisiana." Members advocate for legislation aimed at loosening marijuana laws.

"A lot in Beauregard Parish are behind it. Kids nowadays are getting busted for a small amount -- a plant that grows. They could get 45 to life after three convictions. That's ridiculous," Cole said.

Ken Roy traveled to the event from Sulphur. He said he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2000, and headaches and seizures followed. He said he would like to have all options when managing his health issues.

"The chance to have an option. I'd like to see change. That's the bottom line," he said.

Morgan Tracy, of Opelousas, is the communications director for Legalize Louisiana. She said members have been paying close attention to Colorado, which took in $2 million from taxes on recreational marijuana in January. The state became the first in the nation to permit the sale of recreational marijuana to anyone age 21 or older.

"I think people are aware of the need. You hear about it in Colorado and when you start talking to people about it, they want to tell you. I'm aware of most of the stories, but I'll just listen. They want to get out that information to you," she said.

Tracy thinks Louisiana will legalize marijuana eventually.

"The support is coming and soon, you're not going to be able to ignore it," she said.  "They have to do something about it."

Several marijuana-related bills have been mulled this legislative session in Baton Rouge. You can find those bills at
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