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Influential GOP lawmaker calls for medical marijuana study

January 5, 2018

One of the most powerful Republicans in the Indiana House of Representatives says the Legislature should study the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana.

Rep. Matt Lehman, the majority floor leader, said Friday that he is sponsoring a resolution calling for an interim study committee to research medical pot after the session.

The Berne lawmaker said he still has "reservations" about medical marijuana, but noted 29 other states allow it.

He said lawmakers should talk to experts and examine successes and failures in other states.

Even if Lehman's measure is approved by the House, it will still require a council comprised of lawmakers from both parties to approve the study.

“With 29 other states and Washington, D.C., allowing the use of the marijuana plant for medical purposes, Hoosiers rightfully want to know what direction Indiana will take,” Lehman said in a written statement. “I believe it is wise of policymakers to carefully gather public and professional input, and look at the successes and failures of other states. This is not intended in any way to lead to the decriminalization or legalization of recreational marijuana. While I myself have reservations, I believe it’s time to look at all of the facts and data on the issue.”
 
If Lehman’s House Resolution 2 is adopted, it would "urge the Legislative Council to require the Indiana General Assembly’s Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services to examine science-based evidence regarding marijuana and its derivatives in the treatment or palliative care of various medical conditions," the statement said.

Lehman's proposal comes as libertarian-leaning Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas, of Seymour, has agitated for legislation to legalize medical marijuana. That's a non-starter, with Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and an influential prosecutors association—among others—opposed to the idea.

But Lucas, who has also voiced support for decriminalizing marijuana possession, sees it as a winning issue with the public. On Wednesday, the session's opening day, he was cheered on by a raucous crowd of cannabis enthusiasts at the Statehouse.

"I didn't come up here to turn good Hoosiers into criminals, or deny them something ... that provides a better quality of life for millions of people across America," Lucas said. "This is now a passion of mine. I will not stop until Indiana becomes a medical cannabis state."

Though Lehman wants to study the issue, he sowed doubt over the likelihood of medical marijuana coming to Indiana anytime soon. That would require significant change at the federal level, he said.

Research he believes is essential in order to determine the medical value of marijuana has been stymied because pot is categorized as a "Schedule II" drug. Such drugs are considered "dangerous" with a "high potential for abuse," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"It's a classic catch-22," Lehman said.

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