Drug commission echoes governor’s anti-marijuana position

By Makenna Mays

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse voted overwhelmingly Thursday to oppose efforts to decriminalize marijuana for medical or recreational use.

The 11-3 vote, with two abstentions, was taken at the commission’s regular meeting, echoing Gov. Eric Holcomb’s opposition to legislative efforts to relax Indiana’s marijuana laws.

“I think it’s really important that we’re talking about the most vulnerable population in this state, that we’re doing what we can to make sure that our young children are not taking edible marijuana and ending up in our emergency rooms and our hospitals,” said Dr. Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner, after she made the motion.

Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana’s Department of Health commissioner

However, not everyone on the committee agreed that the commission should vote on this issue.

“When I signed up for this commission, I signed up for a particular reason and that was to address the opioid epidemic,” said Sen. Gregory Taylor, D-Indianapolis. “This commission was never tasked with taking a position on marijuana, marijuana is not an opioid.” He was one of the no votes.

The commission took the vote a day after Holcomb was asked whether he would support efforts to relax the state’s marijuana laws. At least one lawmaker has said he will introduce legislation in 2018 to make it legal for medical use while a national veterans’ group is pushing for a study of the issue.

“The FDA is the organization that approves drugs in this country, and they’ve not yet, and so we’re not there in this state,” Holcomb said. “At this time right now, I’m trying to get drugs off the street, not add more into the mix. So, I’m just not supportive of that.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, has said he will introduce legislation that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Several medical marijuana bills were filed in the last legislative session and all failed.

Organizations such as the American Legion believe that there is some merit into researching the medicinal value of the drug. Many veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain have told the Veteran’s Administration that their health has improved by using medicinal cannabis.

“We have never endorsed the use of marijuana for recreational or even medicinal purposes,” said John Raughter, communications director at the American Legion. “All we’re saying is we want the VA to do research into the area.”

Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, which says it has no medicinal value. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, ecstasy and LSD.

“We are saying that we want it to be removed as a Schedule I and be reclassified because we want the VA to study whether or not it has potential medicinal value,” Raughter said.

An independent public opinion research company recently released the results of a nationwide survey of veterans about the use of medical cannabis:

  • 83 percent believe the federal government should legalize medical cannabis nationwide,
  • 82 percent said they would want to have medical cannabis as a federally-legal treatment option,
  • 92 percent support medical research,
  • 100 percent aged 18-30 support federally legalized medical cannabis, and
  • 79 percent age 60-plus support federally legalized medical cannabis.

At the last American Legion national convention in August, the organization passed a resolution proposing that VA doctors should be able to discuss with veterans the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and recommend it in those states where medical marijuana is legal.

“If a doctor can provide it to a non-veteran outside the VA system in the state because of their state laws, we’re basically saying, you know, that’s something the VA should be able to do as well in cases that’s appropriate,” Raughter said.

The debate over medical marijuana comes as others states have legalized the drug for either medical or recreational use. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada have already all passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana. It is also legal in Oregon and Colorado.

The debate is also taking place as communities across the state grapple with opioid addiction. State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, is proposing bills for the 2018 legislation that would impose tougher penalties on some drug crimes.

Makenna Mays is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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4 Responses to Drug commission echoes governor’s anti-marijuana position

  1. Colette Bowering RN

    It’s sad that a few people in power are stopping the over 80% of the rest of us from legalzing medical cannabis. This is a health and moral issue.

  2. I think we need to vote in more progressive representatives! Indiana needs to dig the dirt out of their ears and listen to the people who suffer from the disease that the pharmaceutical companies have created!!! I’m 70 and I think Indiana should come into the 21st century!!!

  3. Cannabis is here, there, and everywhere Dr. Box.
    It always has been easy access.
    The difference is regulated, one knows what they are getting and what’s used to grow it SAFELY. The different types of strains have different effects like tired or hungry, so it also helps know what a patient is getting.
    It means keeping their kids and families together and quality of life to Hoosier patients and legalizing it takes the legal strains off an already struggling individual.
    Also National medical associations across the board endorse medical cannabis. How can you as our state health commissioner be so blinded to the patients of this state and the evidence that is out there?
    Please educate yourselves on how cannabis is helping millions in US everyday.
    29 states have legalized. The support is there to back cannabis. So choosing to not support it is only showing how misinformed you are, and you are supposed to be a professional.
    Understand that peanut butter and ants kill more people each year than cannabis.
    Doctors kill even more people (children) each year “accidentally” than cannabis.
    If we used your premise for not legalizing cannabis on doctor visits, there would be no doctors left. You couldn’t stay in business.

  4. Fda does not regulate Herbal Medicines…..just like products at the health food stores….these are not an under FDA jurisdiction.
    Alcohol and tobacco too are not under FDA regulation.
    Hill’s guest speakers on cannabis recently have all been discredited or voted out as in the case of Chris Christy.
    The governor and our DA are quickly loosing ground. The will of the people will be heard. With 7-11% voter turn outs. It is only a matter of time before they feel the pinch.
    Holcomb could be seen as a hero… A man who ushered in a new market and economic boom for Indiana….as someone who helped his suffering Hoosiers and who took steps to end the opioid epidemic in our state, and as a governor who supports the vets and soldiers in our state.
    Ignoring the super majority in this state is a recipe for ending your political career. Just saying… Hope all standing in the way of science, logic, and doing what’s right will gain a better understanding at the voting polls.