NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: State should be open to investigating legalization of medical marijuana

While you might think an Indiana Legislature with a Republican supermajority would never give the idea of legalizing marijuana in this state any consideration, think again.

Indiana Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, introduced a resolution Thursday asking legislators on the House Committee on Public Health to support a summer study of medical marijuana. Lehman has long been an opponent of legalizing marijuana, as have many other Republicans in the legislature through the years, including House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro-Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

Yet no one argued against Lehman’s resolution last week, and the House voted unanimously to conduct the study prior to next year’s legislative session. Why? There is a growing body of evidence showing that medical marijuana can dramatically improve the lives of people with epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, arthritis and many other ailments.

And Lehman, the majority floor leader, invited former Rep. Tom Knollman, a Republican farmer from southeastern Indiana, to speak before the House in favor of the study of medical marijuana as a preferred alternative to opioids that could help alleviate his own chronic pain.

Even Bosma said he supports studying medical marijuana, but he, like many others in the House, insists that does not mean he supports legalization of the drug. Senate Republican leadership, however, is not as supportive of the study, according to the Indianapolis Star, and does not plan to vote on it during this short session. As a House resolution, Lehman’s proposal does not need to be voted on by the Senate.

Fort Wayne’s Long said there have been problems in states that have legalized marijuana, and the Star quoted him as saying, “It may get studied, but the Senate isn’t going to talk about it over here this year. . . . I think our caucus has pretty strongly said we don’t want to legalize it.”

However, a separate bill introduced by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, a backer of Lehman’s study, would legalize medical marijuana. But HB 1106 has not been scheduled for a committee hearing.

Last year, legislators approved a law allowing people with a severe form of epilepsy to use cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant but does not create a “high.” stands with the Republican leadership at this point. We certainly don’t favor legalization of marijuana, but we support the study.

As Bosma told The Associated Press: “We just need to know a lot more about (medical marijuana) before we do anything. My mind can be changed, but it will still be based on facts.”