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COLUMN: Marijuana in Indiana

Indiana has one of the most restrictive marijuana policies in the nation, which is why I was surprised when I stumbled onto Indianapolis’ First Church of Cannabis.

Though many expressed outrage in 2015 over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it did pave the way for a marijuana debate.

The Church of Cannabis filed a suit against the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department last year because of their threats of arrest, installation of surveillance cameras and persecution of the church in general, according to Indianapolis Monthly.

Some experts believe the church stands a chance in court, while others are skeptical.

“This seems to be born out of somebody’s silly desire to circumvent the law,” Scott Schneider, co-author of the Indiana RFRA, said to Indianapolis Monthly.

I don’t see a good reason why the church would go to such lengths to circumvent this law if they didn’t want to be noticed. In my opinion, this religion is just as legitimate as any religion, and it should be treated with the same respect.

Many examples of similar cases can be found in American history. For example, Catholics were allowed to consume their sacrament of wine during prohibition, and minors are still allowed to do so. Additionally, Native American peyote churches are allowed legal use of mescaline and churches with South American roots are allowed legal use of their sacrament, ayahuasca.

Even apart from this discrimination against the Church of Cannabis, I am left wondering why the government is so adamant about controlling the plant. According to Gallup polls, 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

One reason for this support may be because people are beginning to realize how safe marijuana is compared to other drugs. For example, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s former chief judge Francis Young mentioned marijuana is medically safer than many foods, and “is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

Frankly it doesn’t take a scientific study to show marijuana’s benignity, but many studies have done so nonetheless. For example, the Beckley Foundation compared marijuana to alcohol and found “much lower risks of death from cannabis than alcohol-impaired driving, fewer adverse effects on health ... and the lower rate of persistence of cannabis use into older adulthood.”

Maybe you think marijuana is morally wrong even in light of its safety. I encourage people with this opinion to consider the numerous health benefits cannabis can offer to patients in pain, and the lesser harm caused by cannabis than alcohol and tobacco. Instead of focusing government control on a harmless plant, we should be more concerned with keeping our citizens safe and the true criminals suppressed.

I was encouraged to read one student’s review of drug safety on IU’s campus on Colleges.Niche.com, in which he said, “As long as you aren’t being irresponsible, you won’t get into trouble; the police and officials just want everyone to be safe.” Now that is a drug policy I would support.

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