Indiana Daily Student

Candidates discuss marijuana, infant mortality rates at second Indiana gubernatorial debate

<p>A screen grab from the Indiana Gubernatorial debate Tuesday night.</p>

A screen grab from the Indiana Gubernatorial debate Tuesday night.

Indiana’s second gubernatorial debate between Republican incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb, Democrat Dr. Woody Myers and Libertarian Donald Rainwater was held Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

The candidates answered questions submitted by Hoosiers around the state regarding topics such as marijuana, infant and maternal mortality and racial disparities.

During the debate, Myers focused on how he wants to do things differently than the previous Republican governors while Holcomb continued to emphasize the success he has had in the past few years, including the decrease of the infant mortality rates. Rainwater addressed the questions by focusing on tangible ways to decrease government involvement in the areas discussed.

Marijuana

Both Myers and Rainwater said they supported the decriminalization of marijuana possession. Myers also said he wants to legalize medical marijuana.

“That’s going to be a big step for our state, but it’s an important one,” Myers said. “It’s time to allow Indiana physicians to be able to prescribe those substances for their patients.”

Rainwater said legalization of medical marijuana is not enough and he wants to completely deregulate all forms of cannabis. He said only legalizing medical marijuana would benefit pharmaceutical companies, while deregulation would help Hoosiers more.

“We have the ability to create new agricultural, manufacturing and retail opportunities for Hoosier business owners, just by legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis,” Rainwater said.

Holcomb never said whether or not he supported legalization of marijuana but said he did not want to pursue it while it is not federally legal. He said he wants there to be more medical research on marijuana before he considers legalizing it.

Rainwater and Myers said there has been enough research done on marijuana to conclude whether or not it should be legalized.

Infant mortality

Indiana consistently ranks high in the U.S. for infant mortality, the moderator said. In 2019, the overall infant mortality rate was 6.5% and the rate for Black babies was 11%, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Myers said he plans to make infant mortality and maternal mortality, in which Indiana ranks third worst, a priority during his time as governor and give public health infrastructure more money to support expectant mothers.

Rainwater said that infant mortality is tied to poverty and he would help address that by opening up Indiana and reducing the regulations that make it harder for certain people to get jobs.

Holcomb said he is proud of the work he has done to reduce the infant mortality rate, which decreased from 6.8% to 6.5% in one year. He said Indiana is moving in the right direction because the state is working to provide expectant mothers the care they need.

Addressing racial disparities

Myers said he would address this issue by focusing on criminal justice reform, including having every officer wear body cameras and every police car use dashboard cameras, as well as requiring bias training. He also said it is important that the laws are applied fairly, especially when it comes to marijuana regulation.

“We know today that African Americans and Caucasians use substances at about the same rate, but we don’t get arrested at the same rate, we get arrested three or four times as much,” Myers said.

Rainwater said he would address racial disparities in Indiana by decriminalizing cannabis, releasing people from jail who were arrested for marijuana possession and acknowledging the way laws can disproportionately affect minorities.

“When government oversteps its bounds, it usually does so in a way that adversely affects the minority communities,” Rainwater said.

Biggest issue in Indiana today

Myers said the biggest issue in Indiana is public safety, which includes public health and criminal justice reform. He said as a physician, he knows how the environment, economy and health care each affect each other, and he wants to find a way that they can all work together to improve public safety.

Rainwater said the biggest issue in Indiana is that Hoosiers are facing government regulation without consent. He said if elected he would work to bring Hoosiers' freedoms back.

Holcomb said the biggest issue in Indiana is improving people’s skills, so they can go into the jobs available in Indiana.

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