It’s that time once again, when legislative monsters start crawling up to the steps of their respective Capitol city lairs and begin spewing agendas, ideas, prejudice and otherwise sandbagging nomenclature that will undoubtedly prevent any real progress from spilling into the street in the years to come. Hello, America, how are you? But if there is a state that is worth watching this year concerning the marijuana debate, even if it is purely for entertainment purposes, it is Indiana. Lawmakers are currently sharpening their teeth in hopes of ripping opposing forces to pieces when it comes to whether the state should legalize the leaf for therapeutic use. Rest assured, the corpses that lay in the wake in the coming months could show a shift in dominance.
Indiana is picking up where it left off last year on two critical cannabis-related issues: Medical marijuana and industrial hemp. The 2017 session ended with some legislative herky-jerky, which, depending on who you ask, was intended to prolong the inevitable. But it all comes back around.
On the matter of whether the state should launch a comprehensive medical marijuana program, lawmakers decided it would be in the best interest of all parties involved if the Indiana Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services determine the appropriate methods for moving forward. The committee has finished that task. Just last week, it listened to the testimony doctors and other health professionals, as well as patients, before deciding that state lawmakers should not proceed with medical marijuana. Perhaps in hopes of pouring salt on the wound, the panel also concluded that no future medical marijuana studies should take place.
But there was enough belief that the committee would rule in favor of taking medical marijuana to the next level in the Hoosier State, causing some organizations, namely the Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys, to squirm. The group sent a letter to the committee begging them not to endorse medical marijuana because they say it has no therapeutic value and it would only serve to worsen the state’s drug problem.
“Marijuana use increases the risk of opioid abuse and other controlled substances,” the letter reads. “If marijuana has medicinal value, it must be subjected to the rigorous FDA process.”
This is not the first time state’s prosecuting attorneys have attempted to sabotage legal weed. The group filed a similar letter last year.
Still, regardless of the panel’s decision, Representative Jim Lucas of Seymour plans to take charge of the issue in the next legislative session.
Earlier this year, after paying a visit to Colorado’s legal cannabis market, the lawmaker said medical marijuana “is the right thing to do for Indiana. No question. Lucas, who introduced a medical marijuana bill in this year’s session, plans to put another one on the table in 2019. “The genie is out of the bottle,” he said. “This conversation is going to continue moving forward. I‘m going to make it my mission.”
Other lawmakers, including Republican Senator John Ruckelshaus of Indianapolis, predict the medical marijuana debate is going to heat up in 2019 regardless of it being snubbed by the legislative committee.
“There will be plenty of legislators and representatives bringing forward legislation this year, I guarantee that,” he said.
Last year, Indiana passed a law allowing the possession of CBD oil for select patients. Because of this modest reform, there is hope that the State Legislature will finish what it started this year and legalize industrial hemp. Although the issue was widely accepted in the U.S House, the Senate pulled some last minute shenanigans that essentially tabled the subject of legal hemp until 2019. It was later determined that Governor Eric Holcomb was the culprit behind this stall tactic. His excuse for stepping and preventing hemp from being grown by local farmers for the first time since World War II — he wants to make sure it’s done right.
Meanwhile, the farming community is pushing for it hard for hemp. After all, if Indiana farmers were allowed to produce hemp for CBD oil, they would have an additional cash crop to make up for the suffering corn and soybean market. Representative Lucas plans to take charge of this issue, as well.
It is difficult to determine just how these issues will fare when the geeks and goons of government return to Indianapolis in January. While these cannabis-related measures may have more support now than in years past, there still seems to be enough resistance to prevent them from making it on the books in 2019.
On the other hand, neighboring Michigan is expected to legalize marijuana for recreational use next month. And depending on the outcome of the Illinois gubernatorial race, the state could also be on a similar path in 2019. Considering that Ohio is close to launching its medical marijuana program, Indiana’s prohibition laws could soon become more troublesome to enforce. Indiana lawmakers may have no choice but to get serious about implementing some level of legal marijuana to hold it all together. Otherwise, the black market could become flooded with pot products from almost every direction. One way or another Indiana’s marijuana market is going to improve in the coming years. It’s just a question of whether the state wants to gain anything from it (tax revenue, jobs, a stronger economy) other than hassles and hard times.
“In my short tenure here, all we’re doing is setting up so we can sell pot,” said Republican Senator Liz Brown of Fort Wayne.
Well, we’d say it is about time.
TELL US, do you think its only a matter of time before Indiana adopts a medical marijuana program?