Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb Refuses to Legalize Medical or Recreational Cannabis

Cannabis advocates in Indiana shouldn't hold their breath in hopes of marijuana reform coming to the Hoosier state anytime time soon. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) steadfastly refuses to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use.

"I'm just not willing to look at that, especially since it is illegal right now according to the federal government," Governor Holcomb told the Northwest Indiana Times last week.

That means the issue is off the table for the foreseeable future. Holcomb - who succeeded current Vice President Mike Pence as governor in 2017 - will remain in power until at least Election Day 2020. Right now, Holcomb's fellow Republicans control both chambers of the state's General Assembly by a broad margin (67 Republicans to 33 Democrats in the House, and 40 Republicans to 10 Democrats in the Senate). So the voices of marijuana reformers like state Senator Karen Tallian (D) will likely be drowned out by lawmakers who support cannabis prohibition.

And unlike in Missouri, which voted to legalize medical marijuana last November during the Midterm Election, Indiana doesn't allow ballot initiatives. So the 78 percent of Hoosiers who support marijuana reform can't override the will of the legislature on the issue.

Holcomb threatens crackdown on cannabis consumers

In the meantime, Governor Holcomb has pledged to not only uphold prohibition but to reinvigorate efforts to enforce the criminalization of cannabis in Indiana. Despite the fact that many of his fellow governors either support legalization or have at least eased up on enforcing prohibition in their districts, Holcomb says that he swore an oath of office to uphold all state laws. "Not a few of them, or some of them, or selections among them," he said, noting that his stance includes cannabis use. "Right now, it's a crime. I'm just simply not willing to look the other way."

His stance is particularly surprising given that he legalized the production, sale and medical use of the cannabis compound CBD earlier this year. He explained that discrepancy last week by telling reporters that CBD oil is safe whereas he believes that consuming the rest of the plant can lead to harder drug use. In other words, Holcomb regurgitated the debunked 'gateway drug' theory that's been used to stoke irrational opposition to cannabis legalization for years.

So it's one step forwards and two steps back for marijuana reform in Indiana. 

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People are justifiably excited over the groundbreaking legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis in Canada and several American states. But it's important not to overlook the crucial role that medical cannabis plays every day in the lives of millions. So what does medical cannabis mean in a legalizing world?

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