marijuana Texas
Co-owner Troy Moore measures marijuana at the "Oregon's Finest" medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon, April 8, 2014. REUTERS/STEVE DIPAOLA

A Texas senator filed a bill Tuesday to legalize the use of medical marijuana to help patients with chronic disabilities in the state. Veterans, doctors and patients came out to the State Capitol to show support for the bill.

“I filed this bill because doctors, not politicians, should determine the best treatment for severely ill Texans,” Democratic Sen. José Menéndez reportedly said. “This is a legitimate medicine that can help a variety of sick people from a grandmother suffering from cancer to a veteran coping with PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder].”

Twenty-eight states in the U.S. have legalized the use of medical cannabis and Menéndez argued that Texans shouldn’t have to travel to these states for treatment.

“Why are we forcing Texans to become medical refugees?” he asked. “If that’s what they’ve come to find that works for them, they should be able to live in their state and be able to have access to the medicine that their doctor feels is best for them.”

If passed, Senate Bill 269 – which will be considered in the state’s legislature in 2017 – will allow doctors to treat patients with chronic conditions and unmanageable pain using the plant.

The bill adds to the 2015 Texas law, also authored by Menéndez, which allows patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to use certain forms of marijuana.

Texas lawmakers have already filed bills to loosen the state’s strict marijuana laws. During their January session, legislators will debate on reducing charges for possession of cannabis to a civil infraction with a $250 fine instead of jail time and a criminal record.

Currently, those found in possession of, using or distributing even the smallest amount of marijuana without proper identification can face charges. People caught with less than 2 ounces of cannabis could face a misdemeanor charge and jail time of up to 180 days.

Perpetrators caught with between 2 and 4 ounces of cannabis can face a fine of up to $4,000 and a year in jail and those caught with over 4 ounces of marijuana can face felony charges and jail sentences ranging between 2 and 99 years.