The state of marijuana is changing in Texas. This past legislative cycle, lawmakers legalized hemp and expanded medical marijuana use to include conditions like autism and terminal cancer, but not PTSD.
That's bringing a somewhat unlikely group of allies to the fight: veterans. NBC 5 sat down with one veteran who says the legislature has become his new battlefield.
Robert Head is paging through his past, flipping through photos from the five and a half years he served in the Army, half of that in Iraq.
"I was in the infantry, I was 11 Bravo," said Head.
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The memories are good.
"Here's some old buddies of mine," he said, pointing to one photo.
Until they're not.
"He was supposed to go home like the next week. It was real rough," said Head, holding up a memorial program for a fellow soldier.
It's part of life as a veteran and like so many, Head has had moments when the bad times overwhelm.
"I started drinking heavily,” he said. “I was also taking 8-10 pain pills a day."
It started taking a toll on his family.
"I knew that if I continued down the path of the pills and the booze, something bad's going to happen,” said Head. “So I reached out to friends of mine in the military and asked what they do and one of the people suggested cannabis."
For Head, the difference was almost immediate.
"I don't hurt, I slept like a rock."
But he faced a new dilemma.
"Do I decide to become illegally healthy, that's best for my family, or do I become legally unhealthy?"
He decided to try to change the law, by joining Texas Veterans for Medical Marijuana. This past legislative cycle, the group advocated for expanding medical marijuana use to include PTSD. But lawmakers rejected the move, citing concerns over gateway drug use and other health effects.
"We feel like we're being treated like children," said Head.
The veterans group is already gearing up for a renewed fight in the 2021 session, believing their sacrifice gives them standing to speak out.
"It gives you better credentials to say this is what works for me and who has a right to take that away from me."
Head is already part of the marijuana market. He lives in Carrolton but runs a legal grow operation in Maine with an old Army friend for a business partner. Veterans are a big part of their customer base.
Head sees it as a continuation of his devotion to his fellow soldiers.
"You truck through the mud, you drag them out of fire, they drag you out of fire, there's a thousand things that you do but you always do it together," said Head. "And then you come back over here, now we're all dispersed so I can't pick somebody up off the ground any longer. But I can see what could help them."
He believes medical marijuana could cut opioid abuse and stem a growing tide of veteran overdoses.
"Is it the answer that's going to fix everything?” said Head. “No, it's not. But you know what, this answer might bring some people home at night."
And that's a battle he'll never stop fighting.
At least one lawmaker, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, has promised that legislation including medical marijuana use for veterans will be the first bill he introduces in the 2021 session.