Two Democratic lawmakers have filed bills that would allow the use of medical marijuana in Indiana, although neither measure is likely to advance in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Sen. Karen Tallian of Portage and Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie are sponsoring bills that would allow Indiana residents to use marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor's recommendation.
But Errington told The Star Press of Muncie that her bill has been assigned to a House committee where it's unlikely to get a hearing.
Tallian's bill would create a state agency that would oversee a program for those who use marijuana for treatment.
In recent years, Tallian has tried with five different bills to decriminalize marijuana, but no bill has passed a committee. This year, she has decided to take a new approach by focusing on medical uses for the drug.
Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he supports the measure because of personal experience when he lost his father to cancer. Pelath said he would have wanted his father, who was in a lot of pain before he died, to have access to marijuana if it would have helped.
Twenty-three states have legalized medical marijuana around the nation, while Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska have legalized it for recreational use. Washington, D.C., also approved a marijuana ballot initiative that will be subject to Congressional review.
Looser marijuana laws face widespread opposition in Indiana.
Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said legislators should wait and watch to see how the rest of the nation handles the controversial topic before acting.
And House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said medical marijuana would cause “more family and personal disasters” than it would “issue way of relief.”
“I don’t personally” think the marijuana bill should get a hearing, Bosma said. “I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug.”
Randy Miller, executive director of Drug Free Marion County, says his organization hasn’t developed a firm position because legalization is “so far down the road.”
Drug Free Marion County’s main concerns about the issue stem from two ideas – medicine shouldn’t be approved through politics and usage might be increased if medicinal marijuana is legalized, he said.
“Never in the history of our country has it happened where a substance or medicine is approved by legislation,” Miller said. “We’re not saying there isn’t value; we’re just saying we’re going about this the wrong way.”
Another concern sprouts from the feedback other states are receiving. The use of edibles and vapor uses are becoming widespread, both medically and recreationally, leading to more opportunities to use marijuana among young people.
“Use rates in Marion County are above state and national norms significantly,” Miller said. “Twenty percent of eighth graders used marijuana in the last 30 days. We already have a significant problem with marijuana as it is.”
The Indiana State Medical Association opposes the legalization of medical marijuana. The issue is not a legislative priority, said the group’s communications director, Adele Lash.
Drug Free Marion County is also looking for more information on the potential benefits of additional substances inside the marijuana plant — research that has not yet been conducted.
Other states are having issues after legalization.
Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out parts of Colorado’s marijuana law, claiming that federal law supersedes the state’s right to legalize pot.
The New York Times reported this week that in Colorado, “amateur marijuana alchemists” are blowing up homes trying to extract hash oil, but courts are unsure how to address the legalities of the actions.
And other reports claim that increasing numbers of car accidents and emergency room visits in Colorado can be blamed on the legalization of marijuana.
“States that have loosened up the restrictions,” Long said, “I think they are beginning to find and will find that there are consequences for that.”