As Indiana lawmakers prepare marijuana bill, Gov. Holcomb signals openness to medicinal research

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – Several Indiana lawmakers are getting ready to introduce proposals on marijuana this session.

Marijuana legalization has been discussed for years among some lawmakers, but previous proposals have not made much progress.

“We’re still in the fight, fighting for a safer way to heal,” said Jeff Staker of Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis.

Staker has been advocating for medical marijuana in the Hoosier State since forming his organization five years ago.

“Every day I run into veterans that are thanking me for what we’re doing,” he said.

Previously, marijuana bills haven’t received hearings at the Statehouse. But Staker said he’s recently seen more curiosity about the issue from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Gov. Eric Holcomb told our sister station WANE 15 earlier this week he’s not ready to legalize marijuana, but he supports Indiana universities researching medical marijuana.

“It’s good to see him moving in the right direction, but I still think it’s way too slow,” said State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour).

Lucas is among a handful of Republicans at the Statehouse who have supported marijuana legalization. He plans to introduce legislation again this session that would permit medical marijuana.

“We have to be politically realistic about this as well,” Lucas said. “I don’t see us jumping into adult use right off the bat. But medical is something that we should have implemented years ago … It works, it’s safe.”

Still, Indiana Democrats want to see the legislature go further. State Sen. Rodney Pol, Jr. (D-Chesterton), is working on a bill to regulate recreational use.

“Let’s not fool ourselves, cannabis has always been in all of these states, but there’s just been an illicit market for it,” Pol said.

It’s too early to tell exactly how far any proposals could go in the legislature this session.

In an interview Friday, House Majority Leader Matt Lehman (R-Berne) stopped short of supporting legalization but tells me he would be supportive of measures to examine medical marijuana.

“We’ve got to continue to move forward and do what’s right for Hoosiers,” said Lehman, who proposed a few years ago that the legislature study medical marijuana. “And I think because we’re seeing more evidence that medically there might be some benefits, I do think it’s worth taking a look at the medical side.”

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