Indiana Bills Would Legalize Medical Marijuana; Foundation to Block Federal Prohibition

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 1, 2016) – Three bills introduced in the Indiana House would legalize medical marijuana in the state. If signed into law, the legislation would take another step toward blocking the deplorable federal prohibition on cannabis in practice and effect.

Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Munster) introduced House Bill 1303 (HB1303), Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) introduced House Bill 1316 (HB1316), and Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) introduced House Bill 1356 (HB1356) this month. Each bill would promulgate rules and regulations to set up a functioning medical marijuana program in the Hoosier State.

HB1303 would give access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from the following qualifying conditions:

"(1) cancer;
(2) glaucoma;
(3) positive status for human immunodeficiency virus;
(4) acquired immune deficiency syndrome;
(5) hepatitis C;
(6) amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
(7) Crohn’s disease;
(8) Alzheimer’s disease;
(9) nail patella;
(10) multiple sclerosis;
(11) injury or disease to the spinal cord, spinal column, or vertebra;
(12) myelomalacia;
(13) celiac disease;
(14) sickle cell anemia;
(15) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces:
(A) cachexia or wasting syndrome;
(B) severe or chronic pain;
(C) severe or chronic nausea;
(D) seizures, including seizures that are characteristic of epilepsy; or (E) severe or persistent muscle spasms; or
(16) any other disease, condition, or symptom that the state department of health has determined… to be a debilitating medical condition."

HB1316 contains very similar language, although it does not cover as many conditions as HB1303. Both bills would create a rulemaking authority to govern the use of medical marijuana. Qualifying patients would be given medical cards, but dispensaries are only formally allowed in HB1303. HB1316 would permit caregivers to grow on the patients’ behalf.

HB1356 is written with similar language but includes broader protections for patients and their physicians than the other two bills. It states:

"A physician is immune from civil and criminal liability for:
(1) advising a qualifying patient about the risks and benefits of the medical use of cannabis; and
(2) providing a qualifying patient with a written recommendation based upon a full assessment of the qualifying patient’s medical history and condition.
However, the immunity described in this subsection does not apply to a physician who commits gross negligence or engages in willful or wanton misconduct.
(n) The medical licensing board may not take any action against a physician who is immune…
(o) Unless required by federal law or to obtain federal funding, a person may not discriminate in employment or housing based solely on an individual’s:
(1) status as a patient cardholder; or
(2) positive test for use of cannabis if the individual is a patient cardholder."

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB1303, HB1316 and HB1356 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Any of these bills are signed into law, it would partially remove one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in Indiana, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While these Indiana bills would not alter federal law, they would take a step toward thwarting in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, the Indiana House would remove some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Indiana could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

NEXT UP

HB1303, HB1316 and HB1356 were referred to the Committee on Public Policy. The committee must approve the bills before they can receive full House votes.