A veteran marine sniper is at the forefront of advocacy for medical marijuana for pain in Indiana. For the past six years, no medical marijuana bill even made it to a committee hearing in this state. What he wants to know is: why?
The Indy Star interviewed 51-year-old Jeff Staker, who served as Marine sniper in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He has become a leading advocate for medical marijuana for pain and PTSD in Indiana.
Politicians take veterans serious
Staker firmly believes politicians listen to veterans, and that is why he founded the movement Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis. The Indiana American Legion recently approved a resolution to remove restrictions and to classify marijuana as at least having some medicinal value. The national American Legion has its headquarters in Indianapolis, and asked Congress to withdraw cannabis from the list of illegal drugs with no medicinal value.
Staker would like to see change for medical marijuana in Indiana. He and many others like him claim medical marijuana for pain can prevent veterans from becoming addicted to painkillers. His other major concern is mental health issues related to combat, which medical marijuana can help veterans cope with.
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Previous bills went nowhere
Previously, medical marijuana bills sponsored by Sen. Karen Tallian to legalize medical marijuana gained no momentum in the Republican state legislature. Rep. Charlie Brown introduced an identical bill. Rep. Chris Judy sponsored a bill which allows medical marijuana if a doctor from out of state prescribed it. None of these medical marijuana bills even made it to an Indiana legislature committee hearing.
Jeff says he has been on painkillers for the last ten years, and has spent at least eight years on Oxycontin. It became common for him to run out of medication before his next prescription because of resistance building up. He heard a shocking report from the father of a fellow veteran who tried to quit Oxycontin. He ended up on heroin, which is much cheaper.
IPAC opposes medical marijuana
The main opposition to medical marijuana for pain is from the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC). It has a page on its website stating that marijuana leads to crime, addiction, and traffic accidents. It also claims marijuana is a “gateway” drug leading to other hard drugs. Impaired driving is also a big issue according to IPAC, and as if casting around for a clincher, it mentions animals being poisoned by cannabis and ending up at veterinary clinics.
Prove marijuana has no medicinal value
Staker wrote a letter addressed to IPAC Chairman, Daniel Murrie, the Daviess County prosecutor, challenging him to prove one fact and one fact only; that marijuana has no medicinal value. No reply from Murrie has been received yet.
The argument? Prove marijuana has medicinal value
Executive director of IPAC, Dave Powell, claims it is the responsibility of advocates to prove marijuana has medical benefits. He states the medical community agrees smoking marijuana will never be considered as effective cannabis-based treatment. Legalizing marijuana without the necessary research in line with the requirements of the FDA is putting patients at risk and preventing them from receiving effective medical treatment, says Powell.
Medical marijuana for pain: there is no retreat
Staker quotes “The Art of War” by Sun-Tzu, saying there are nine different kinds of fighting terrain, one is desperate ground where there is no retreat. This is how he sees the battle for medical marijuana for pain.