Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cannabis and Indiana's opportunity for compassionate care

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 2:46 PM

click to enlarge hemp_leaf_2.jpg

By Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage)

Imagine for a moment: you have a family member who is ill, and the only medicine available to them is illegal in your state. You have tried everything you can to relieve symptoms, but have had little to no success. You have heard of families in other states that have had success with one form of treatment, but it's still illegal here. What would you do? Would you leave Indiana in an effort to get the medicine your loved one needs?

That is too often the case in Indiana when it comes to the compassionate use of CBD oil and medical cannabis. Cannabidol, or CBD, is a key ingredient in cannabis along with THC. However, CBD does not have the same chemical elements of THC, and therefore does not induce a "high".

What it does provide is a wide range of medical benefits. CBD is known to be an effective treatment for reducing nausea and vomiting in cancer patients, suppressing seizure activity, combatting inflammatory disorders, and reducing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. These are only a few of the medical benefits that could help treat Hoosiers, but why is it still illegal? For one, it is the lack of a state policy in Indiana.

Congress has created a catch-22 by restricting medical marijuana due to the lack of research and the viability of cannabis as medicine. Yet, federal law prohibits medical research of marijuana if individual states do not have a policy in place. Currently, 23 states and Washington D.C. have made medical marijuana available to their citizens. I think Indiana should be number 24.

For years, I have made it a priority to start the conversation about medical cannabis in the Indiana Senate, but those efforts have been consistently blocked by Statehouse Republicans. Under my proposal this year, research facilities located in Indiana would have the ability to study the efficacy of cannabis as medicine after receiving licenses from the Department of Marijuana Enforcement (DOME), a new state agency that would oversee the program and review the effectiveness of medical marijuana on certain medical conditions. My proposal would have also permitted physicians to prescribe medical marijuana to Indiana patients.

While I am met with road blocks to common sense marijuana policy each year, I will not give up. We made a small stride in 2014 by implementing policies to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp once the federal government allows the state to do so. If we can take a small step in the right direction for farmers, we should do the same for our loved ones suffering from illness. Among the many other uses of this versatile plant is the fact that CBD can be extracted from hemp and be used to treat serious medical conditions.

I view this as an opportunity; an opportunity to begin the larger conversation of how we as legislators can help the most vulnerable among us and provide Hoosiers with the compassionate care they deserve.

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