Several years ago, it was said that Indiana would be one of the last states to legalize marijuana for any reason. But then, back in 2017, the state legislature surprised the cannabis advocacy community by passing a restrictive bill aimed at giving epilepsy patients access to the non-intoxicating derivative of the cannabis plant known as cannabidiol (CBD.) Since that law was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, the word on the street is medical marijuana is gaining some momentum at the State House. What was once a topic considered out of the question, at least by Republican standards, is beginning to find some of the support needed to carry it on to the next level.
If there is one Hoosier lawmaker that can be credited for leading the charge, it’s Republican Representative Jim Lucas of Seymour. He has spent the better part of the last year listening to voter opinions on this issue, introducing legislation to further the movement and conducting fact-finding missions in legal states to bring his argument arsenal up a notch in case he steps in the ring to duke it out for another round in 2019.
Lucas’ most recent trip was to Colorado, where he spent nearly a week touring cannabis facilities in Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. This tourist-style exploration into the world of legal weed was apparently complete with some product sampling. When asked whether he smoked marijuana while hanging out in the legal state, Lucas told NBC-affiliate WTHR, “Sure, I enjoyed the freedom Colorado offers to responsible adults and it was amazing.” He then went on to elaborate, saying that he experimented with “cookies, edibles, smokes” and “vape sticks.” Of course, this means Lucas was stoned pretty much the entire time he was in Colorado.
Other lawmakers representing areas of prohibition have toured Colorado in the past in order to try and get a grip on the legal marijuana scene. But most, if not all of them have refused to admit that they hit the weed while they were there. But not Lucas. The Republican reefer rep said he could give two flying squirts what his colleagues back in Indianapolis think of him for going on a five-day stoner retreat. “We’re at that point where someone has to take the lead on this,” he explained. “When you see that 60 percent of states have some form of medical cannabis, what they’ve done is decriminalize a plant that brings countless benefits to countless people.”
But in order to hit the ground running with the medical marijuana argument, it is first necessary to get honest about it, Lucas said. The herb has been shown beneficial in the treatment of a variety of conditions ranging from anxiety to chronic pain. But to make it legal will not save the entire collective of the sick and dying from the wrath of their respective ailments. “It’s not the wonder drug for everyone,” Lucas explained, “but I think it’s unconscionable that we do not have this in our tool box to let doctors and patients choose what’s best for them.”
The one aspect of the trip that Lucas did not get into with WTHR is the economic benefits a legal framework could bring to Indiana. Although the state’s economy is growing (slowly), the addition of a statewide cannabis trade would create thousands of new jobs, expand economic reach and even pull some of the more downtrodden areas out of a grey world of destitution and despair. Pueblo, Colorado, which suffered a downfall after the demise of the steel industry, has become a thriving municipality once again thanks to legal weed.
Representative Lucas, who is up for reelection in November, says he plans to introduce medical marijuana legislation in the next legislative session if the voters put him back in the State House. He says his visit to Colorado “removed all doubt” in his mind “that this is the right thing to do for Indiana.”
Gov. Holcomb said during his campaign that he supports medical marijuana. Yet, it remains to be seen whether he would support a bill intended to implement a comprehensive medical marijuana program that could service tens of thousands of patients all across the state. Holcomb worries that giving the plant more freedom will put the state on the path to full-blown legalization.
TELL US, are you surprised lawmakers went on a cannabis retreat?