By Ashley Shuler
Even though a Ball State survey finds 52 percent of Hoosiers support making marijuana a regulated substance, Indiana may be one of the last states to legalize it.
Twenty-three states have legalized medical marijuana around the nation, while Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska have legalized it for recreational use. Washington D.C. also approved a marijuana ballot initiative that will be subject to Congressional review.
But in Indiana, legislative leaders say they have no plans to even consider a bill to legalize pot for medical purposes.
From those influential legislative leaders to unsure health effects, below are the top five reasons why marijuana probably won’t be legalized in the Hoosier state for years to come.
- We’re a conservative state.
That’s true politically and philosophically – and why you see Indiana approve some things so much later than other states.
Consider that majority Republicans in Indiana were still trying to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage just last year – while other states were legalizing it and federal courts were striking down the state’s law against gay unions.
“It’s not easy to make something that’s illegal, legal” in Indiana, said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne.
Also, 80 percent of state senators and 71 percent of House members are Republicans. And according to that Ball State survey, Republicans were far less likely to support the legalization of marijuana (49 percent) than were Democrats (64 percent).
- Legislative leaders are opposed.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said legislators should wait and watch to see how the rest of the nation handles the controversial topic before acting.
And House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said medical marijuana would cause “more family and personal disasters” than it would “issue way of relief.”
“I don’t personally” think the marijuana bill should get a hearing, Bosma said. “I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug.”
- Drug-free groups don’t support it.
Randy Miller, executive director of Drug Free Marion County, says his organization hasn’t developed a firm position because legalization is “so far down the road.”
Drug Free Marion County’s main concerns about the issue stem from two ideas – medicine shouldn’t be approved through politics and usage might be increased if medicinal marijuana is legalized, he said.
“Never in the history of our country has it happened where a substance or medicine is approved by legislation,” Miller said. “We’re not saying there isn’t value; we’re just saying we’re going about this the wrong way.”
Another concern sprouts from the feedback other states are receiving. The use of edibles and vapor uses are becoming widespread, both medically and recreationally, leading to more opportunities to use marijuana among young people.
“Use rates in Marion County are above state and national norms significantly,” Miller said. “Twenty percent of eighth graders used marijuana use in the last 30 days. We already have a significant problem with marijuana as it is.”
- The health effects are still up in the air.
The Indiana State Medical Association opposes the legalization of medical marijuana and the issue is not a legislative priority, said the group’s communications director, Adele Lash.
Tbe group bases its opposition, in part, on an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine authored by scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The article reviews the current state of science on marijuana’s adverse health effects, including addiction and “increased vulnerability to other drugs.”
Drug Free Marion County is also looking for more information on the potential benefits of additional substances inside the marijuana plant — research that has not yet been conducted.
- Other states are having issues after legalization.
Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out parts of Colorado’s marijuana law, claiming that federal law supersedes the state’s right to legalize pot.
The New York Times reported this week that in Colorado, “amateur marijuana alchemists” are blowing up homes trying to extract hash oil but courts are unsure how to address the legalities of the actions.
And other reports claim that increasing numbers of car accidents and emergency room visits in Colorado can be blamed on the legalization of marijuana.
“States that have loosened up the restrictions,” Long said, “I think they are beginning to find and will find that there are consequences for that.”
Ashley Shuler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.