The debate is coming to Indiana. It’s already been settled in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and 26 other states that have legalized the use of marijuana to treat certain illnesses.
Soon, perhaps as early as next month, the Indiana General Assembly will be asked to consider the question of legalizing medicinal marijuana. Although the issue isn’t expected to advance far in the 2018 session, the national trend suggests it’s not a matter that Indiana’s legislature can avoid for long.
But before the Statehouse gets to a full debate, the governor and legislators need to have a plan on how to proceed — because it will not be an ordinary policy discussion.
To understood why, look at the state’s bungling of whether to allow the sale of CBD oil, a cannabis extract used by some patients to ease the symptoms of chronic illnesses.
Last spring, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill that created a CBD oil registry for epileptic patients.
Shortly after, however, State Excise Police confiscated products containing CBD from about 60 stores. The police said only outlets on the new registry could sell CBD.
But business owners and others pointed to a 2014 law that legalized growing industrial hemp and seemed to allow for the sell of CBD products that contain only tiny amounts of THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces a high.
Confused? So were consumers, store owners and police, who didn’t know what was and was not legal.
On Nov. 21, Attorney General Curtis Hill ruled that CBD oil is illegal in all circumstances outside the registry for epileptic patients. Holcomb then ordered the removal of CBD products from stores within 60 days.
CBD oil was the easy test. The state flunked in enacting and enforcing a clear policy.
That’s a strong indication the legislative and executive branches are in no way ready for questions that soon will have to be asked and answered about medical marijuana. How long can Indiana continue to hold out against the trend toward allowing medicinal use? Should it even continue to hold out? What’s the best way to ensure transparency in the decision-making process? How can the state encourage a fair and accurate debate about the merits of and problems with legalization?
This isn’t about whether to vote yea or nay on the issue. The state isn’t ready for that decision. It’s not even ready yet to address the question in a thoughtful, thorough way. But we need to get ready. Because the debate is coming soon.
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