Bacon: Debate over medical marijuana continues

Posted by: Hannah Carlock  | Friday, August 18, 2017

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, 28 more states have enacted some form of legislation allowing controlled access to marijuana for health reasons, including Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. As this list of states grows, and more of my colleagues in the General Assembly raise the issue, I want to gather input from my constituency and discuss this hotly debated topic.

In states that allow marijuana to be used as a legal drug, doctors prescribe it to treat various health issues which sometimes do not respond well to conventional medications and treatments, such as muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, nausea from chemotherapy, poor appetite and weight loss stemming from chronic illnesses, seizure disorders and Crohn’s disease.

There are multiple ways to use medical marijuana including smoking, vaping, eating or taking it as a liquid extract. However, like any other drug there can be side effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, short-term memory loss and euphoria. Some of the more severe side effects include acute anxiety and psychosis.

There is hesitation among many in Indiana to enact similar policies because the FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective therapy. Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level and the United States Department of Justice can challenge a state’s legalization laws at any time. Marijuana is often also viewed as a gateway-drug to more dangerous illicit drugs.

This year, there was some confusion as to whether Indiana had passed a medical marijuana law. To clear things up, we did not. The General Assembly did, however, pass a law helping Hoosiers with treatment-resistant epilepsy. This new law allows a person to possess CBD oil if they or their child have been diagnosed with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy, and they meet certain commonsense safety requirements.

CBD oil is a compound refined from industrial hemp that has a wide scope of medical applications, including the control of epileptic seizures. Even though this oil is derived from industrial hemp, it has extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, so it cannot be used as a recreational drug.

To protect these patients, as well as their caregivers and physicians, from potential prosecution, this new law also tasked the Indiana State Department of Health with establishing and maintaining a registry for those approved to possess and use CBD oil as a treatment. This registry is now up and running. For more information, visit www.in.gov/isdh/27488.htm.

As a lawmaker, health care professional and vice chair of the House Committee on Public Health, I want to do what is best for the wellbeing of all Hoosiers and prepare for possible debates about the use of medical marijuana. As I work to form an opinion, it’s especially important for me to know how those in our community feel about the controversial idea. If you have input on this issue, please contact me at 317-232-9833 or by email at h75@iga.in.gov. I appreciate hearing from you in order to better represent our district.

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State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75,
which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

A high-resolution photo of Bacon can be downloaded by clicking here