Column: State is island of subjugation on medical marijuanaJuly 16, 2019
By Corey Polen
Ruled by a party that won’t listen to the citizens of Indiana, now is the time to consider a revolt. In November 2018, Ball State’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs published a survey where 84% of Hoosiers supported legalization of medical marijuana. Across the state, more Hoosiers supported this than they did their own representatives. This truly carries bipartisan support across every demographic, yet it continues to remain out of reach for those that need it most.
Is it morally right to make veterans or chronically and terminally ill patients criminals when they are wanting to seek safe and fiscally responsible alternatives to expensive and addictive FDA-approved narcotics? These same people would not be criminals if they utilized their liberty on the other side of three of the four Indiana borders. The fourth, Kentucky, overwhelmingly advanced a medical cannabis bill out of committee this past year. As of last year, there were 33 states, DC and four U.S. territories where medical cannabis is a legally approved medication (majority of states, population and land mass). Medical cannabis laws have never been rescinded at any of these locations due to safety concerns or any other reason.
As an ALS patient, this has become very critical for me. ALS is an extremely aggressive and terminal disease. Only 10% of patients live longer than five years, and most die before two years. There is no effective treatment, and clinical trials are very restrictive. I take many medications to manage the effects of this terrible disease, and the cost is astronomical.
There are countless studies showing the benefits of medical cannabis to ALS patients like me which impact neuronal oxidation, dysautonomia, pain, spasticity, drooling, wasting, dyspnea and depression. In 2016, an article in the Journal of Neural Regeneration Research stated, “There is a valid rationale to propose the use of cannabinoid compounds in the pharmacological management of ALS patients. Cannabinoids indeed are able to delay ALS progression and prolong survival.”
State and federal Right To Try (RTT) laws were created for patients like me. It was to provide us the liberty to place experimental treatments in our bodies at our own risk knowing that there are no treatments available to help us. These laws have truly failed us. No companies will provide RTT access to me or any of my fellow ALS patients. State and federal RTT laws also provide no legal protection or access to safe medical cannabis, which is legal in other states.
While smoking it is not my intent, there are many other forms of medical cannabis that are ideal for ALS patients. A transdermal patch provides steady dosing and does not provide any psychedelic effects. Edibles and other concentrates are also ideal until I can no longer eat and swallow on my own. Let’s not forget, Indiana approves of toxic products like tobacco and alcohol. They even continue to tout Sunday alcohol purchases to us, as if we don’t know Indiana was the 50th state to allow it.
While most states allow ballot referendums to achieve legislation on medical cannabis, Indiana specifically excludes this option in our state constitution. I don’t foresee Indiana legislators giving up the power to suppress the will of the people and allow referendums. During the 2019 legislative session, Jim Lucas (Seymour-IN) put forth a Medical Cannabis bill (HB-1384). However, Gov. Holcomb and Brian Bosma were staunch road blocks from the very beginning. The bill was assigned to the Public Health committee. The bill died there because Cindy Kirchofer would not place it on the agenda for discussion or a vote. Gov. Holcomb personally labels marijuana as a gateway drug, even though many studies do not support that stance.
He also admits to marijuana use, but has not clarified if it was a gateway drug for him.
Another interesting approach to legalization of medical cannabis is the Convention of the States. Article V of the U.S. Constitution allows the support of two-thirds of the states to propose amendments, which need to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, or a convention as set by Congress for that purpose. In this case, a convention of 34 states would be required, and 38 states would be necessary to ratify it and overturn the current scheduling of marijuana. As other states move to legalize medical cannabis, this approach comes into play. However, this is not common and does not provide any immediate relief to Hoosiers in need now.
Of course, patients can move to states where medical cannabis is legal, but this is not an option for patients like me where our disease has taken our ability to move. As a lifelong Hoosier and supporter of the Republican Party and liberty, this issue has rocked me to my core. So, I call on all my fellow Hoosiers to provide liberty to patients like me.
Hold these legislators accountable for their actions and inactions. Many of these representatives can easily be unseated. For example, Cindy Kirchofer (R-D89 Warren/Beech Grove) lost 4 percentage points in two years, and only won 2018 by 200 votes. That’s only 100 people switching their vote. Let’s send a message to both Bosma and Holcomb.
I want you to ingrain this message in your mind now for a couple reasons. These politicians will gloss over their decision of inaction that would have benefited thousands of Hoosiers battling many diseases of all ages. You must hold them accountable as they make their political spin to remain in power. The second: I might not be here to remind you of the negligence of their inaction. I have suffered much more than I should have. Their inability to heed the voices of Hoosiers makes them culpable to unwarranted harm for patients like me. They are aware of the numerous benefits of medical cannabis. However, they are conflicted by the Republican leadership and pharmaceutical donors. We have the power to end their confliction and move Hoosiers off the island of subjugation.
Corey Polen was born in Huntingburg, and has numerous family and friends across Dubois County. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2016.
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