INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws held a town hall meeting on Saturday to advocate for medical marijuana ahead of the next legislative session, according to the Indianapolis Star. The meeting included the local American Legion chapter, Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis, state legislators, veterans, and advocates of the drug. Rodney Strong of the American Legion said that their goal is to save lives with medical marijuana. "If we can save just one veteran, it is worth it to us, and this legislation could save many, many veterans' lives."
Strong knows that veterans are two times more likely to overdose from opioids than the rest of the population, and at least 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Marijuana has been proven to be effective in treating vets with PTSD and chronic pain, and people are experiencing relief from marijuana without the dangerous side effects of prescription opioids. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported medical marijuana states had nearly 25 percent fewer fatalities from opioid overdoses than non-marijuana states.
A medical marijuana study will begin in October in the state. The House of Representatives voted unanimously last January to study medical marijuana ahead of next year's legislative session after it was proposed by the House Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Matt Lehman (R). Pot advocates hope that the study will convince the State Legislature that medical marijuana is a necessity and should be legal.
Advocates at the town hall urged listeners at the meeting to spread the word about the health benefits of medical marijuana and to contact lawmakers in their districts to ensure their voices are heard. "Constituents are becoming more vocal. And that's when legislators start listening," Rep. Sue Errington (D). More than 100 medical marijuana advocates were in attendance at the meeting held at the Indiana State Library.
Candidate for Sherriff in Hamilton County Advocates for Medical Marijuana
One attendee at the town hall was a Democratic candidate for the Hamilton County Sheriff, Jason Straw. Straw says that medical marijuana should be legalized and that the opioid epidemic is the number-one public safety threat facing society.
"I don’t see marijuana has a high priority and I hope prosecutors feel the same way because people are overdosing and dying from fentanyl," he said. The opioid epidemic killed more than 42,000 people in 2016 nationwide, but no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose.
Sen. Karen Tallian (D) told the crowd that she would push for medical marijuana legislation during the next legislative session and noted that more legislators are increasingly becoming more open-minded toward legalizing medical marijuana.
Tallian wants the Legislature to create a cannabis commission next year to ensure confidence in medical marijuana research. "When you have a commission, you have legitimacy. If we have a structure, it will convince people of a legitimate program,” she said.
Eighty-three percent of veterans believe that medical marijuana should be legal, and nearly 92 percent say that research should be conducted on the drug. American Legion spokesman Joe Plenzler says that veterans report that marijuana saved their lives when they were experiencing suicidal thoughts resulting from PTSD.
Rep. Jim Lucas (R) was also at the town hall meeting and says that medical marijuana can improve people's quality of life, citing proponents of the drug who suggest that pot is a gateway drug. "We keep hearing cannabis is a gateway drug. It is a gateway drug. It's a gateway to a better-quality life," said Lucas. Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C. have already legalized medical marijuana.