Lucas: A giant leap for cannabis advocates

Posted by: Randy Spieth  | Wednesday, October 9, 2019 8:30 am

The negative stigma surrounding cannabis needs to end and now is the perfect opportunity to implement the benefits it can bring Hoosiers. With the recent decision by the Marion County prosecutor to no longer prosecute adults in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana when that charge is the only or most serious one, Indiana took a positive giant leap forward in ending its war on cannabis.

The truth is, many want changes to our state’s cannabis laws, with 73 percent of Hoosiers supporting decriminalizing medicinal cannabis. This issue surpasses party lines, with 58 percent of conservatives and almost 90 percent of Democrats and independents wanting a change. More than 30 states have decriminalized medical cannabis, including three of our neighboring states. Cannabis purchased legally outside our state’s borders is making its way to Indiana, giving law enforcement, prosecutors and judges more of a burdensome workload, and draining our valuable resources. In Marion County, at least, prosecutors can focus on violent crimes rather than using limited manpower going after minor cases.

With nearly 150 marijuana possession cases being dismissed in Marion County alone in the short week following the policy change, it’s clear that Indiana’s archaic laws are adversely impacting the lives of thousands of Hoosiers who are otherwise law-abiding citizens.

The biggest obstacle we face in Indiana is the federal government classifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug, with high potential for abuse and currently no accepted medical use or benefits. At the same time, the federal government labels opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine as Schedule II drugs, meaning they provide at least some medical benefits. Many state leaders have been clear that until the federal government reschedules cannabis, Indiana will not take action. This classification also prevents scientific research to further study the facts and benefits of cannabis.

I believe veterans, those with certain illnesses and other Hoosiers would benefit from medicinal cannabis. Our doctors should be able to discuss cannabis and look to it as an option to help those suffering. Veterans who have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedoms deserve to be able to better manage their post-traumatic stress disorders through this helpful drug. Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy can develop an appetite and cope with the immense pain they are in, people with multiple sclerosis could better mitigate their uncontrollable muscles, and countless other Hoosiers would have the option of another form of safe treatment for many other issues.

I understand marijuana can be abused, and ground rules would need to be established before moving forward to decriminalize it. It takes courage to stop prosecuting low-level possession, and Marion County’s giant leap sparks a legitimate conversation about the issue in Indiana.

Others throughout the state could consider following the lead of the Marion County prosecutor, who said, “. . . an arrest for marijuana possession puts individuals into the system who otherwise would not be. That is not a win for our community.” As your state representative, I will continue to advocate for this change so Hoosiers can benefit from the decriminalization of cannabis. A giant leap was taken, but we still have far to go.
 

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 State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) represents House District 69, which includes portions of
Bartholomew, Jackson, Jennings and Jefferson counties.
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