FORT WORTH — Chanting “We smoke weed,” hundreds of people marched through downtown Fort Worth on Saturday to rally for the legalization of marijuana as part of the Global Marijuana March.

Protesters waved flags with marijuana leaves and carried signs that read, “Open your eyes. Legalize” and “God made grass.”

“We want to see a change in our laws sooner rather than later,” said Shaun McAlister, executive director of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. “We are through with our tax dollars being wasted on prohibition.”

The Global Marijuana March, which began in 1999, draws thousands of protesters to cities worldwide. Fort Worth’s protest included U.S. military veterans, medical professionals, business owners, students and people with chronic health conditions.

When marijuana is legalized, it will instantly improve the quality of my life and the lives of others.

Arlington resident Eric Espinoza, who has cerebral palsy

Eric Espinoza of Arlington, who has cerebral palsy, said he took opioids for years to manage pain, fatigue and body spasms. His condition left him temporarily unable to walk.

“I eventually found there are far better alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs,” Espinoza said. “When marijuana is legalized, it will instantly improve the quality of my life and the lives of others. I will be able to experience the life I should have.”

In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed a limited medical marijuana bill called the Compassionate Use Act that legalized low-THC cannabidiol oil for patients with epilepsy. Although the law is extremely limited, advocates say it is a positive sign that Texas could be inching closer to legalization.

The marijuana movement isn’t just about smoking pot.

Mark Linday, CEO of Green Spring Technologies in Fort Worth

For Air Force veteran Mark Linday, cannabis legalization would mean a sustainable future for the country. Linday is CEO of Green Spring Technologies, a Fort Worth-based company that seeks to build plant-based products and plastics.

Holding up a pen made of hemp, Linday explained that he is forced to buy the hemp from other states because it is illegal to grow in Texas.

“We are not potheads. We are not criminals,” he said. “The marijuana movement isn’t just about smoking pot. It’s about an agricultural crop with a lot of potential that we are forbidden to grow.”

A few feet away, Bob Smilie of Duncanville passed out pamphlets educating people about juror nullification — essentially when jurors return a verdict of not guilty because they believe that the law is unjust.

“The freest nation in the world has the highest incarceration rate,” Smilie said. “The war on drugs is a war on freedom.”

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(c)2016 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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