Even as other states, including Michigan, our neighbor to the north, have legalized medical marijuana, Hoosiers had little reason to think Indiana would soon follow suit.
After all, past legislative efforts to allow medical marijuana have failed. Just last year, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The bill never got a hearing.
And an interim committee tasked last fall with studying the legalization of medical marijuana couldnâ€™t decide how to proceed and couldnâ€™t even come to a consensus on whether to study the issue further.
So, legalizing medical marijuana seems unlikely here in Indiana anytime soon.
Still, Gov. Eric Holcombâ€™s recent comments on the issue went even further â€“ in effect, taking the issue off the table … end of discussion, period.
Holcomb told reporters last month that he is absolutely opposed to recreational marijuana in Indiana: â€śIâ€™m just not willing to look at that.â€ť As for the potential benefits of medical marijuana, which 33 states have legalized, Holcomb says heâ€™s not unsympathetic to the idea. However, he thinks the federal government, not Indiana, should investigate the matter.
Holcomb says as governor, he took an oath to uphold all the laws, including marijuana prohibition: â€śRight now, itâ€™s a crime. Iâ€™m just not willing to look the other way.â€ť
Last year, as governor, Holcomb signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 52, which legalized the sale, possession and use of cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative also known as CBD oil. â€śIndiana lawmakers delivered a bill that ensures Hoosiers who benefit from CBD oil can access it,â€ť he said then.
A 2016 poll found 73 percent Hoosiers surveyed supported medical marijuana, with Hoosiers older than 65 favoring legalization by 57 to 41 percent. The Old National Bank/Ball State University 2018 survey found 42 percent of Hoosiers said marijuana should be legal only for medicinal use, while 39 percent said marijuana should be legal for personal use.
At a town hall rally last August at the Indiana State Library, medical marijuana advocates were joined by veterans and patients to discuss the benefits of medical cannabis. Some talked about how the substance had helped them overcome pain from chronic diseases and surgeries, some called it a healthier alternative to opioids.
American Legion member Kent Morgan said medical marijuana could be â€śanother tool in the toolboxâ€ť for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
All of which suggests that wherever you stand on the legalization of medical marijuana, this is an issue worth discussing, worth investigating. After the study committee failed to reach a consensus, state Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, said, â€śThis is not the last time we will be studying this issue.â€ť
We would hope not. Given the potential benefits for Hoosiers â€“ and the actions taken by 33 other states â€“ Indiana should be taking a good, long look at the legalization of medical marijuana, not sitting on its hands and waiting for the federal government to do so.
South Bend Tribune