IN Focus: Indiana lawmaker pushing for legalization of medical marijuana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Lawmakers in several states are pushing forward proposals this week aimed at legalizing marijuana, including in New Jersey. On Monday, lawmakers began discussing a package of measures before a standing-room-only crowd.

In Indiana, both recreational and medical marijuana use is illegal. But advocates are preparing to pressure lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana. State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) is helping spearhead the effort and will introduce a bill in January.

“This is a people issue,” he said in a recent interview. “There are no labels on this. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative. It doesn’t matter.”

Thirty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical use, putting Indiana in the minority. And it appears some top Republicans want to keep it that way, posing a roadblock for legalization.

“I’m not a fan personally,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said last week. “I think it leads directly to recreational marijuana. I just don’t think it’s a positive step for young people in our state.”

Beyond that, any legislation would need the signature of Gov. Eric Holcomb, who said last month he’s “open-minded” but only if the Food and Drug Administration and Justice Department have given the proper approvals, which has yet to happen.

“I certainly don’t agree with the hodgepodge effort for states to say we’re just going to go ahead and do it,” Holcomb said.

Still, though, advocates across the state including veterans’ groups are preparing to push hard at the Statehouse.

“I’ve talked to everybody except the governor,” said Jeff Staker, founder of Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis. “The governor’s kind of got his head in the sand, and he’ll come out and say I’m trying to get drugs off the street, not put more on. My philosophy is we’re trying to get them off the street and get them into our medicine cabinet.”

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