Access to medical marijuana top priority for local veterans

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INDIANA -- A former Marine says access to medical marijuana means life or death for many veterans across Indiana.

Jeff Staker is the founder of Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis.

The Kokomo veteran hopes pressure from the state’s American Legion next week will push lawmakers to create a statewide medical cannabis program.

Already, members of Post 6 in Kokomo unanimously approved the resolution. The only holdout was the commander, who refused to sign the resolution. Instead, he forwarded it along to District 5, which represents 10 north central Indiana counties.

District 5 approved it too, so now it heads to the state American Legion department, in an attempt to move the effort forward more quickly.

For years, medical marijuana bill proposals have come and gone for at the state house.

This year though, Staker is convinced that the voice of veterans will be too loud for legislators to ignore.

His organization put out this 15-second ad across television stations ahead of the legislative session starting.

Staker says the ad shows the issue of veterans overdosing is especially problematic because studies have shown medical marijuana can help reduce the rate.

“Every 30 minute, you have a veteran that dies of a prescription pain medication overdose. From on 9/11, everyone who died in the Twin Towers and on the planes and every veteran that has died in combat since, in 15 years that’s less than 10,000. But now we have 17,520 die every year?” he said.

As Staker puts it, veterans have a better chance of going to war and coming back alive than surviving after beginning to use prescription opiates. He says that’s unacceptable when medical marijuana is a safer alternative.

“The legislators are going to have to get their heads out of the sand, per se and take note that this is what the people want,” said Staker. “This is what your veterans want.”

Staker wholeheartedly believes in the research that shows medical cannabis can treat illnesses ranging from PTSD and chronic pain to epilepsy and Parkinson’s.

“There’s lots of studies out there but the politicians just do not want to look at it for one reason or another,” he said.

He says while the resolution focuses on veterans, he hopes any law would make medical marijuana available to all Hoosiers.

Staker just thinks the life or death needs for veterans will be the push some lawmakers need.

“You can see that veterans have a better voice to be heard than Joe Citizen,” said Staker. “And obviously we can see that it hasn’t worked in the past with Joe Citizen, so who else to be the point of the spear?”

So far, there are appear to be at least two bills that could address medicinal access to marijuana.

The deadline to file that legislation is Tuesday in the House and Thursday in the Senate.

The American Legion will vote after that, so if the bills are filed, they can get to work right away convincing lawmakers to support veterans in this fight.

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