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Legislative panel explores legal, practical hurdles to cannabis legalization

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A legislative panel on Tuesday indicated possible support for legalizing cannabis in some form in Indiana but took no action.

Lawmakers took roughly four hours of testimony on almost every aspect of cannabis policy.

The Indiana Bankers Association raised concerns state regulators might come after members who processed transactions for cannabis-related businesses.

The American Cancer Society said more research is needed on cannabis-derived medications, but marijuana should be included in smoking bans.

Some of the most pointed criticism came from the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. Legislative Counsel Brock Patterson said local prosecutors have already handled assault and battery cases where suspects admitted to having consumed products containing THC, the chemical compound that causes the high associated with marijuana use.

“There was a comment made that legalized states are seeing lower overdose rates. That’s just not the case,” Patterson said. “So my point is if you want it regulated, give me an example of where it’s been done right and I can’t find one where, wholesale, it’s done right.”

People who have gone to other states to access cannabis products said being able to do so has vastly improved their lives. Marc Dorsett told News 8 he has taken numerous medications for a degenerative spinal condition for nearly 10 years. He said cannabis is the only thing he has found that can manage his pain and let him lead a normal life.

“It’s helped me be active, honestly publicly. To do things I wouldn’t be able to do,” he said. “The pain clinics want me to take 3 or 4 (hydrocodone pills) a day. There’s no way I could do that without walking around being a zombie.”

Dorsett said he ultimately would like to see legalization of marijuana for recreational use, but the state should start with medicinal use to allow time to fine-tune regulations.

Lawmakers even heard from colleagues in other states that have already legalized cannabis. Michigan State Rep. Graham Filler, appearing via videoconference, said his state approved a banker protection law after voters legalized recreational marijuana in that state. He said Michigan’s black market for cannabis showed signs of weakening once the law took effect.

For their part, cannabis industry representatives said they would welcome state regulations on what their product could or could not contain as long as it wasn’t too strict. Katie Wiley, lobbying on behalf of Starr Ventures, said she would like lawmakers to authorize recreational use for adults ages 21 and up and set rules for advertising. She also wants licensing available in state for every part of making cannabis products so Indiana-based companies can control every aspect of production from cultivation to sales.

“I have a teen and a preteen. And if I were to say to you that my child got their hands on something, I would want to know what was in it. I would want to know it’s safe, it’s effective and that there’s a control around it,” Wiley said.

The panel was an interim study committee tasked with public health topics, so no legislative action will come directly out of the hearing.