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Gov. Abbott Discusses Medical Marijuana Report

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WESLACO – CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with Governor Greg Abbott Thursday in a satellite interview.

Here is the full transcript of that conversation:

KRGV reporter Leslie Aguilar: Last month, we did a special report about a Rio Grande Valley family who is now living in Colorado, so they can have access to medical marijuana treatment for their little girl. Shortly after that story aired, a McAllen mother met with members of your staff to also speak about medical marijuana. So my question is, would you ever consider legalizing medical marijuana beyond the Compassionate Use Act from 2015?

Gov. Abbott: As you point out, I did sign a law that provided for what's called CBD oil, for treatment for those with epilepsy. And at this stage, that's as far as Texas will take it. One of the beauties of the way the United States works is that there are different states that have different programs. And we have the opportunity here in Texas to observe what is going on in Colorado and I've got to tell you, there are some potential upsides but there have also been demonstrated, some potential downsides to the marijuana use practices in Colorado, in California, in Washington and elsewhere. With Texas, we'll continue to observe both upsides and downsides and make decisions in the future based on upon our assessments at the time.

Reporter: What are some of your concerns about some of the effects the law has had in Colorado?

Gov. Abbott: There's been one example, multiple reports of... because of lack of... different cases where, because of lack of standardization, there've been overdoses or over-reactions in a very bad way for individuals who are using it there. But there's also the historical concerns about the way that this can turn into a gateway drug and remember this: I have observed in California where it was used for medicinal purposes before it was allowed for recreational purposes, and when it was used for medicinal purposes in California, what they did is they set up pop-up tents up and down the beach. And anybody could go get it. So just because it's used for quote, “medicinal purposes”, doesn't really mean that it would be limited to that because of the way doctors would use it, they would provide medicinal permission slips for anyone who wanted it. And so don't think that just because it's for quote “medicinal purposes”, it would be limited to such.

Reporter: Is that the message you have for all the families from Texas who are now living in Colorado so their children can get treatment?

Gov. Abbott: Well the business we have in the state of Texas is that there are federal laws concerning the use of drugs that Texas wants to continue to abide by, because we want to do all we can to ensure that we are going to limit the expansion of illegal drugs, making them legal. And that's just the way Texas is.

Reporter: Eleven of the 20 issues on your special session agenda declined to pass. Are you considering a second special session and if so, what's most important?

Gov. Abbott: Well if you look at the things that we did pass, we were able to ensure that we make Texas a better place. One of the things that we did pass was what's called TRS care. And it’s a healthcare program for our retired teachers, where they very much needed the money.

Another issue was school finance reform that passed that will ensure that we are going to be involved in the process over the next year and a half of coming up with programs that will completely overhaul the way we provide for school finances, as well find ways to reduce the taxes that are being used to pay for that.

We also passed a law that's going to crack down on illegal mail-in ballot voter fraud. It's a big issue involving about 700 potential illegal votes in the Dallas area, but frankly mail-in ballot fraud has been an issue in the Rio Grande Valley.

And then on top of that, we passed regulatory reforms that will be beneficial to homeowners. There are other issues that we need to take up, such as finding ways to reduce property taxes. So, even though we passed about half of the agenda items that I had, on the special session agenda, there's much more that we need to tackle in the state of Texas to ensure that the lives of the people in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as the entire state, will be better going forward in the future

Reporter: What about the bathroom bill, is that dead?

Gov. Abbott: Well listen, for any potential legislation, nothing is ever dead. It was clear from the stance of the speaker, that this was a law that was not going to be called up for a vote in this session. My concern is that it was a missed opportunity because there are uncertain conflicts between what some schools are attempting to do, and Title 9 of the United States Education Code and what we need to ensure all superintendents and all principals is that, as they go about the process as schools open up in the next week or so, that they are working in collaboration with, say the Texas Attorney General's Office, to ensure that their policies are in compliance with the Title 9 Federal Education Code.

Reporter: Earlier this week, McAllen became the fourth Rio Grande Valley city to pass a resolution against Senate Bill 4. They said the law is politically motivated and will not make border communities safer. What's your response?

Gov. Abbott: First, I have worked with police chiefs as well as sheriffs in the Rio Grande Valley, all of whom said the same thing. And that is, SB 4 will not change in any way whatsoever, the way that they have conducted business. So police chiefs there as well as the sheriff's association that involves the entire state of Texas, say that SB 4 poses no problem and no change with the way that they conduct their business. The reality is – the reason for this law – is because some sheriff's like the Travis County sheriff were releasing back out onto the streets, very dangerous criminals including known gang members who posed a threat to people including people who had been arrested in the past or accused in the past of sexual assault. And so we want to make sure that we as a state are going to be keeping communities like those in the Rio Grande Valley safe from known criminals who we keep off the streets

Reporter: Do you think there any concerns about people being afraid to report crime because of this law?

Gov. Abbott: Absolutely not because of two reasons: one, we made absolutely clear in the law itself that there is an exception for anybody who is either a victim of a crime, or anybody who reports a crime. Law enforcement cannot ask them for any information about their status. But second, again, going back to the police chiefs and sheriffs I've talk to in the Rio Grande Valley, they say listen this is not going to change in any way shape whatsoever, the way that they deal with citizens or people who live in the Rio Grande Valley.  This is only a mechanism for sheriff's to be able to hold behind bars those who are known criminals.

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