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Holcomb remains against legalizing marijuana, despite moves by neighboring states

December 31, 2018

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb remains opposed to efforts by state lawmakers to allow medical or recreational marijuana in the state, even as such uses are becoming legal in a growing number of other states.

The Republican governor says he hasn't changed his mind even after voters in neighboring Michigan approved a November ballot initiative legalizing the drug's recreational use. Medical marijuana use is allowed in Michigan and Illinois and has been approved in Ohio.

"I'm just not willing to look at that, especially since it is illegal right now according to the federal government," Holcomb told reporters recently.

Several Indiana legislators support marijuana legalization bills that could be considered during the General Assembly session that starts in early January.

Marijuana is classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means it's not accepted for medical use and has a high potential for abuse.

"Right now, it's a crime," Holcomb said. "I'm just simply not willing to look the other way."

However, Holcomb in March said a bill that legalized the sale, possession and use of cannabidiol . CBD oil is derived from marijuana but has a low level of THC, the compound that causes a high.

Holcomb said marijuana, unlike CBD, is considered a gateway drug that could lead casual users to more dangerous narcotics.

While Holcomb said there could be potential medicinal benefits to marijuana, he believes the federal government needs to do more to study the drug.

"I am encouraged that the surgeon general is on record ... saying that some research needs to go into this," Holcomb said. "But it's got to be done in the right way. It's got to be done legally."

Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes is one of the lawmakers seeking to legalize medicinal or recreational marijuana. She said support for such legislation "is at an all-time high" in the state and the Legislature should "follow the will of the people."

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is among the groups against any legalization, arguing that even allowing medical marijuana use leads to decreased worker productivity and safety concerns.

Republican Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymour said he and other supporters of marijuana legalization face fighting the "stigma and fear-mongering" of on the issue.

"We're perfectly OK with somebody getting off of work and running by the liquor store and picking up a case of beer or a bottle of whiskey or something and doing that responsibly on their time," Lucas said.

Holcomb said he's also not concerned with legalizing marijuana so the state can collect revenue off the sales.

"Fortunately, we're in a state that's in a strong position, fiscally speaking, so we're not maybe looking to every potential source without addressing all the adverse effects that come with it," he said.

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