Thirty states now regulate marijuana's therapeutic use, and eight states and Washington, D.C., authorize its use and sale to all adults. Here in Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb just signed legislation that for the first time permits patients’ access to cannabis-derived oils for those suffering from intractable epilepsy.
Nonetheless, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is still trying to mislead my fellow Hoosiers with fear-mongering and distorted data.
Contrary to Hill’s claims, statewide marijuana regulations are not associated with increased marijuana use or access by adolescents, adverse effects on traffic safety, increased crime, or workplace absenteeism.
By contrast, regulating marijuana is associated with less opioid abuse, fewer opioid-related hospitalizations, and fewer opioid induced fatalities. Such results have serious implications for Indiana, where ER visits related to opioids have spiked some 60 percent.
Unlike Hill, most voters now acknowledge that the enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color. It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.
Voters are tired of seeing over 600,000 of their fellow citizens arrested annually on marijuana charges. In Indiana alone, there were 67,872 arrests for simple marijuana possession between the years 2008 to 2012.
A majority of Hoosiers support broad changes to our state’s policies when it comes to cannabis. 73% of Indiana voters now support a robust medical marijuana program and 52% support outright legalization.
Furthermore, when presented with the simple question ‘should we tax marijuana like alcohol/cigarettes’ support rises to 78%.
Of course, reform our state’s marijuana policies does not mean replacing criminalization with a marijuana free-for-all. Rather, it means the enactment of a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the licensed commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults, but also restricts and discourages its use among young people. Such a regulated environment best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse.
By contrast, advocating marijuana’s continued criminalization does nothing to offset the plant’s potential risks to the individual user and to society; it only compounds them.
It’s easy for Attorney General Hill to opine for maintaining the status quo - keep on arresting marijuana consumers and spending our tax dollars to jail otherwise law abiding citizens. It justifies the budget and salary for many in his department. Yet as more and more states realize the the benefits of ending prohibition and adopting sane public policy, more and more Hoosiers will recognize the disadvantage of being stuck in the dark ages.
Indiana’s laws will reflect this eventually - let’s stop arresting our neighbors in the meantime.
Chairman of the Board, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)