Like it is in many states in the midwestern and southeastern parts of the United States, the battle for medical cannabis legalization in Indiana is all uphill. In a state dominated by rural areas and conservative politicians – Indiana is the home of Vice President Mike Pence, after all – getting lawmakers to listen when it comes to medical marijuana is never easy.
In fact, even small steps in that direction have been greeted by law enforcement backlash, as was the case last year amidst the confusion over the legality of CBD oil in the state. That issue was finally put to bed somewhat when Indiana’s Governor Eric Holcomb signed legislation that provides a bit of legal clarity regarding CBD.
But while helpful to many, CBD alone is not medical marijuana. That’s why activist groups in the state are laying the groundwork for a program that might actually help many of the people in Indiana who suffer every day and are considered criminals for choosing a safer alternative to opioids and other prescription medications.
One of those groups is Indiana NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). We got a chance to talk with Justin See, a member of the Board of Directors for INORML, about the group’s efforts to get medical cannabis laws passed in the state.
“Procedurally, it is the fact that so many cannabis reform bills that have been introduced annually have simply not been given a hearing in committee,” Justin told The Marijuana Times about the biggest hurdle INORML has faced. “Leadership figures, like Governor Eric Holcomb, have been opposed to addressing this issue, which has a trickle down effect on many in the Republican caucus. That said, pressure from the Governor is not a total death sentence. In 2018 the Republican-controlled House voted 90-0 in favor of a bill allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp, which was not supported by the Governor.”
When you are battling a governor who doesn’t support industrial hemp, you know the journey will be a long one. It serves to show just how much progress can be thwarted by a small number of powerful lawmakers, no matter how many people could benefit from a policy.
On the flip side, there is reason to be hopeful in Indiana, as there is in many states that some believed to be immune to marijuana law reform just a few years ago.
“We are optimistic that there is a real chance of passing at least a limited medical access bill in 2019, although the likelihood that we will achieve meaningful reform goes up drastically every year,” Justin told us. “The two things really driving this pressure is first of all that constituents are losing the fear that they will be labeled as a ‘stoner’ just because they speak out on the issue, and there is also the indirect pressure that is created by neighboring states and even countries that are moving forward on this.”
Much will depend on an interim public health committee scheduled for October 18th. Justin said that while the recommendations on medical marijuana from this committee are not legally binding, they “will set the stage for what progress we can make during the 2019 General Assembly. There is also an election on November 6th that will give many Hoosiers the opportunity to vote for candidates openly supportive of cannabis reform, many in competitive districts.”
Many of these candidates are highlighted on the INORML website. If you live in Indiana and want to get more involved in pushing marijuana law reform in the state, this would be a good place to start.
And no matter what state you are in, you live in a state where people are suffering needlessly. In a place like Indiana, with no medical marijuana program for those people to access, the time is now to get involved in any way you can.