Indiana activists are hitting back against the state legislature, demanding action on a medical marijuana bill for the next legislative session.
Indiana is one of 18 states without access to medical cannabis, prompting state Republican Rep. Jim Lucas to craft a bill aimed at legalization. Lucas spoke to The Daily Caller News Foundation about his proposal which he aims to introduce in January.
“I want to come out with a comprehensive bill that covers everything,” he said. “How we can best get it into the hands of the patients who need it. We’ve got 32 states that have medical marijuana right now. We won’t have to start from square one. We can take the best from each state and apply those best practices to see what works.”
The measure would decriminalize medical marijuana, and lay the groundwork for dispensaries to sell concentrated oils, topical remedies, and edible substances. The biggest problem facing legalization is overcoming the stigma of cannabis with facts, according to Lucas.
The Republican believes medical marijuana wouldn’t just benefit patients with diseases like cancer, but would help curb the opioid epidemic.
“The opioid epidemic is not just state wide it’s nation wide. I cannot comprehend the argument that we are fine with doctors over prescribing pain killers, while opioids are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. They’re extremely addictive and have terrible side effects,” he said.
Lucas likened using medical marijuana to a soccer mom enjoying a glass of wine or a business executive drinking a glass of scotch.
“It’s not reefer madness. The people that smoke marijuana are not bad people,” he added. “Calling marijuana a gateway drug is an insult. It’s not an entry drug, it’s the exit drug. It helps patients overcome their opioid and heroin addiction.”
Activist Bobbi Young runs a group called IndyCann: Higher Society of Indiana. Their mission is to push for legislative change on medical marijuana. She believes it would benefit patients with chronic illnesses and agrees with Lucas that it could help aid the opioid crisis.
“The opioid crisis is devastating in the state of Indiana. With all the new restrictions on pills that come out, the medical industry has released thousands of people into the streets who have taken opioids for years and have now cut them off – and they’re going for the next best thing that’s available which is heroin,” Young said.
She told TheDCNF that while in Madison County, Indiana, she was prevented from using a gas station bathroom because the owner feared if he unlocked the door, opioid and heroin abusers would use the bathroom to shoot up. The owner hanged a sign on the door, according to Young, which read:
DUE TO EXTREME DRUG USE OUR FACILITIES ARE CLOSED TODAY
“Our primary goal is getting medical cannabis legalized in Indiana. We definitely dive into working with the public with the goal of educating them on the issue,” she said.
States that legalized recreational marijuana are seeing benefits that include more jobs, easier access to cannabis for patients, and increased tax revenue. “If I want medical Marijuana for my disease I have to go to another state. Now the state of Indiana will continually lose the money from that,” Young said.
Indiana’s Attorney General Curtis Hill disagrees with the push for medical marijuana and believes the FDA should be the central authority in deciding if the argument has merit.
“I oppose the inclusion of so called medical marijuana as good for Indiana. If we were talking about a substance that we could extract the active ingredient THC, or get FDA approval for a drug that had qualities that could fix something then I would be for it,” Hill told TheDCNF.
He expressed concern people would use medical marijuana as an excuse to get high and thinks legalization will send the message that marijuana has no harmful side effects.
“Many people who are engaged in opioid abuse, whether by prescription or stealing it from medicine cabinets, many of these folks had already been engaged in marijuana use for a number of years,” Hill said when asked if he thought medical marijuana could help ease the opioid epidemic.
Hill said he wouldn’t support legalizing weed for cancer patients either because he doesn’t believe it’s been proven to have any medical benefits.
“Who is the appropriate source to make that judgement,” Hill asked. “If that’s the case – if this substance is really the type of substance that has a legitimate medicinal purpose then I’m looking for the science and the research, and the approval process.”
Hill places his faith in the criminal justice system as a tool for fighting the opioid crisis, because it forces inmates to stop their drug intake and receive education from the state.
“One of the practical benefits of the criminal justice system, for certain folks who find themselves in the system is they get the opportunity at detoxification, and programs that allow a captive audience to have enough time to get treated and get off the substance,” he said. “We don’t punish people for using, but there is usually a correlation between users and a crime that has been committed.”
“I don’t pretend to sit here and say I have solutions to this maddening problem,” he added. “But I can say I’m trying to do what I can to make sure we don’t make it any worse.”
Hill didn’t rule out supporting a push for medical marijuana and said if the research community continues studying THC and establishes a standard that targets specific diseases, he would consider lending his support.
“It’s not intended to be an emotional radicalism against marijuana. Especially the medical part of it. If this can be done in a manner in which there can be the type of reliance on the FDA process, it’s something that we can look at.”
Young responded to Hill’s comments calling his view antiquated and accused him of acting without knowing all the facts.
“You have politicians who have sat in office for a while, they have the old mentality of refer madness propaganda and it is deep rooted in the state of Indiana,” she concluded.
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