Medical marijuana debate plays out at Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Could Indiana be one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana? That’s the question up for debate Thursday at the Indiana Statehouse. A summer study session looking at the issue wrapped up Thursday with both supporters and opponents of the idea getting a chance to give their thoughts.

Those in favor say medical marijuana would bring in millions for the state in tax dollars, not to mention relief for people with sickness or chronic conditions.

Those against it worry it could get into the hands of kids or be a detriment to people’s health. Now it’s up to state leaders to consider the issue themselves.

“It’s time we do one thing and that is stop just not dealing with this,” said one person speaking in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. Others took a different view.

“On behalf of the Indiana State Medical Association, we stand opposed to this legislation but we do advocate for rigorous study,” said Dr. John McGoff.

Thirty-one states currently allow the use medical marijuana. Earlier this year, the Indiana state legislature passed a law allowing the use of CBD oil, a substance derived from cannabis, but one that doesn’t give users the typical “high” associated with marijuana use.

“This is huge,” said Republican State Representative Jim Lucas, “today is when it begins, we start the official process. We have the hearing.”

Lucas is spearheading the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Indiana. The summer study session exploring the issue is an important first step in that process, but as hours of testimony showed Thursday, the issue is still a divisive one. Private citizens, lawmakers, medical professionals, and law enforcement all spoke for an against the issue during two hours of testimony.

“We also oppose the legalization of marijuana for medical or therapeutic use until a time when it’s efficacy and safety has been proven through clinical trials,” said Mike Ripley of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m not going to say that medical cannabis is a panacea, but it does have a right to be seen,” said Dr. Reuben Rutland, a trauma physician and Health Commissioner for the city of Gary, Indiana.

The topic now goes to state lawmakers in January. The committee hearing the summer study session now decides what kind of a recommendation to send to the state legislature, or it could decide to make no recommendation. In the meantime it is expected a bill on this issue will be introduced when the General Assembly convenes in January.