There is growing support for cannabis and its derivatives as safe and effective treatments for patients suffering from an array of conditions and symptoms, including chronic pain, AIDS, epilepsy and other serious degenerative conditions, muscle spasms, nausea and vomiting, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act and is thus subject to the strictest regulation and incurs the most severe penalties for possession and distribution. Its Schedule I status complicates large-scale scientific studies of medical marijuana.

I have no interest in withholding medical cannabis from patients who have determined in consultation with their doctors that it is a suitable treatment option under medical supervision. In this opinion, I am hardly an outlier, as recent national polls consistently show that over 80% of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana. This overwhelming public support is reflected in the fact that now 30 states and District of Columbia (although so far not Indiana) have chosen—through ballot initiative or legislative action—to give their residents access to medical cannabis in some form, including CBD oils, which have proved effective in combating the opioid addiction crisis.

I support these states’ right to determine their own policies regarding medical marijuana. However, the continued disparities between cannabis’s legal status in these states and its prohibition at the federal level leaves otherwise law-abiding patients and doctors vulnerable to potential arrest and prosecution. I strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to disrupt the lives of sick people who are using medical marijuana  to improve the quality of their lives. 

I also support measures at the federal level like the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment (previously the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment). First passed in 2014, and most recently renewed on September 8, 2017 as part of the emergency hurricane relief and continuing budget resolution, this amendment ensures that states can continue to move forward with legalizing medical marijuana without interference from the Department of Justice. As indicated by its bipartisan sponsors and support —67 Republicans and 175 Democrats voted for it in 2015—there is widespread agreement that  states should be allowed to set their sensible and responsible decisions on medical cannabis. 

I also support other legislation currently pending in Congress that aims to make the exemption granted by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment more robust and permanent. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2015 counts among its 43 co-sponsors both some of the most progressive and conservative members of Congress. It would not only protect law-abiding citizens in states that have legalized medical marijuana, it also transfers marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. This is a critical first step forward for medical marijuana because it would allow researchers to submit cannabis to the kind of extensive and careful study that Americans expect of all forms of medical treatments. Allowing medical marijuana will save Hoosier lives, as well as helping to mitigate the horrors of the opioid crisis currently afflicting far too many Hoosiers. 

There exists little if any scientific basis to justify the federal government’s continued prohibition of cannabis, but there is ample scientific and empirical evidence to rebut it. In fact, the overwhelming majority of scientific research directly conflicts with the federal government’s stance that cannabis is a highly dangerous substance that warrants absolute criminalization. I support changes these changes in federal law so that states, including Indiana, can better tailor their policies to protect the rights of patients and meet their legitimate need for safe and effective treatments for debilitating pain and physical and mental conditions, including by enacting measures that permit the use of medical cannabis.