Medical marijuana advocates call legalization a moral and nonpartisan issue

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For a group of medical cannabis advocates, Saturday was about educating the public so they could, in turn, educate their state lawmakers. 

At the Indiana Medical Cannabis Town Hall Meeting, lawmakers, professors, veterans and other medical marijuana advocates came together at the Indiana State Library. 

They spoke to a room full of people who, judging from the amount of clapping for speakers and the pro-medical cannabis agenda, were largely supporters. During the three-plus-hour town hall, which was hosted by Indiana NORML, attendance ranged from about 60 to 200 as people came and went.

In the fight to expand the use of medical cannabis, advocates wanted to explain scientific studies and personal stories behind why they believe it should be a legitimate choice. Advocate and emcee David Phipps, Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) and Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) cast the issue as a moral and nonpartisan one.

People listened to the results of scientific studiesBuy Photo

People listened to the results of scientific studies and personal stories about using medical cannabis during the Indiana Medical Cannabis Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. (Photo: Domenica Bongiovanni/IndyStar)

“Today, it’s an important event,” Phipps said. “More than anything, we need to get it across to those legislators who are dead set against this for the state of Indiana. We need to make sure they are aware of the facts behind it and not the propaganda that they’ve been fed for far too long by some within the statehouse.” 

Medical cannabis advocates had a small victory in April when a bill passed that allows for epilepsy patients who have struggled with prescription drugs to use cannabidiol to treat their condition. But their goal has been to expand that to give people an alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs, Phipps said.

“We are realistically looking at full medical cannabis potentially as soon as 2019 and adding to the existing bill this coming assembly,” Phipps said.

To that end, Errington said she was working on an in-depth bill that allows for the safe, accessible use of medical cannabis for a large variety of conditions. Lucas said he began supporting the issue after Indiana State excise police raided a Fresh Thyme and took products containing CBD oil.

“I look forward to this fight,” Lucas said. “I love a good fight.”

Medical cannabis advocates said they believe spreading findings from scientific studies is key to changing minds. Former State Representative Tom Knollman, who served as a Republican, said he became an advocate after struggling with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. 

Audience members talked and asked questions of speakerBuy Photo

Audience members talked and asked questions of speaker Thomas Clark, a biology professor at Indiana University South Bend, who spoke about medical cannabis during the Indiana Medical Cannabis Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. (Photo: Domenica Bongiovanni/IndyStar)

“Those of you who suffer (from) medical conditions, I feel for you,” Knollman said.

Veterans, including Indiana American Legion representative John Crosby, echoed the sentiment, citing medical marijuana as more helpful for PTSD and pain than other prescription drugs.

The bulk of the meeting comprised presentations by Thomas Clark, departmental chair and biology professor from Indiana University South Bend, and Chad Bartalone, a paramedic and paramedic science professor at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana in South Bend.

Bartalone focused on medical cannabis and opioids. Several speakers said that the former’s success at treating chronic pain can be used as a tool to reduce opioid addiction.

Clark said he reviewed the research behind several studies of medical marijuana. For example, citing studies by GT Carter, B. Chakravarti and S. Ostadhadi, he found that cannabis therapy alleviates appetite loss, nausea, bone loss and improves mood for those going through chemotherapy.

“The question is not can something have harmful effects, it’s how do you weigh the harmful effects versus the beneficial effects,” Clark said.

Like anything else, Clark said too much marijuana is harmful, and he recommended kids seek other therapeutic options.  

People who say medicinal use is one step closer to recreational use “are prolonging the suffering in this state, and that … language needs to stop, and we need to at least open our ears to the new data that’s come out,” Phipps said.

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Source: 420 Intel – United States

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