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A county prosecutor's group is strongly opposing efforts to allow medical marijuana, saying it's "wrong for Indiana" and could worsen the state's drug abuse crisis.

The Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys also debunked cannabis' medicinal properties. It said the Institute of Medicine concluded this year that there was "insufficient evidence" to use it to treat glaucoma, epilepsy, dementia and a host of other ailments.

The group wrote a letter to the state's drug czar last week, asking him to "formally oppose the legalization of marijuana in any form, for any purpose."

"We strongly believe both medicinal and recreational marijuana legalization are wrong for Indiana," said the Nov. 3 letter to the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse, chaired by drug czar Jim McClelland. "We urge you to take a stand against these policies that would cause further harm to communities already
suffering from the devastating effects of drug abuse."

The prosecutors group makes three main points in its plea: It said marijuana use increases the risk of the abuse of opioids and other controlled substances, it claimed that marijuana is not a medicine and it argued that the legalization of marijuana has had "devastating effects" in other states.

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It said those who argue that marijuana is a medicine are relying on "half-truths and anecdotal evidence."

The prosecuting attorneys cited a report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, saying it showed marijuana users were more likely to miss work. They also cited reports that claimed marijuana legalization has caused an increase in traffic fatalities in Washington and Colorado.

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Their letter arrived after a pledge by State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, in August to introduce legislation legalizing the medical use of marijuana in the next legislative session beginning in January.

Lucas, who has proposed other controversial legislation, including rolling back gun restrictions in Indiana, admitted he had a lot to learn on the issue of medical marijuana, but said he had talked about it with doctors, veterans organizations and advocacy groups, such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

He would be the first Republican lawmaker to formally seek such legislation in at least five years. Prior efforts by Democrats to legalize marijuana were routinely squashed in the GOP-dominated General Assembly.

Lucas knows the difficulties such legislation would face, but he said in mid-August that he had "every intention of introducing a bill that legalizes medical marijuana."

"I can’t comprehend how we can deny people something that provides them with relief that’s not addictive and is not killing anyone when we know for a fact that prescription opioids are killing people," he said.

Lucas already is planning a fact-finding trip to a cannabis dispensary in Buffalo Grove, Ill., later this month, according to a report Sunday by the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago media outlet. Lucas will be a guest of Illinois regulators on Nov. 16, as he tours PDI Medical, where he will meet with doctors, patients and medical marijuana industry leaders.

Lucas does face strong opposition from Republican leaders in the Indiana General Assembly. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis have opposed efforts to legalize marijuana, even for medical purposes, in the past.

When IndyStar reported earlier this year that some Indiana lawmakers had been working secretly to create a market for marijuana in the state in the event it became legal, both Bosma and Long expressed alarm and said they were concerned that a full-blown effort to allow medical marijuana could be a first step toward an eventual legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Indiana.

Attorney General Curtis Hill, a Republican, also strongly opposes efforts to legalize marijuana, emphasizing its health and public safety risks.

Still, Indiana lawmakers have taken a small step in that direction when they passed legislation last year to allow the use of a marijuana extract called cannabidiol, or CBD oil, to treat patients with epilepsy who did not respond to traditional prescription drugs. CBD oil contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, so there is no "high" produced by its use.

NORML, the organization fighting for marijuana legalization, said modern research suggests marijuana can be used to relieve pain as well as treat nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders.

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