Opinion: Marijuana should be decriminalized


Commentary by Donald Rainwater

Our government officials have made the opioid addiction crisis a major subject of discussion during the past few years. Unfortunately, the discussion always centers on increasing spending on programs that have failed to produce successful results.

I believe that major contributors to the crisis are synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine. These highly addictive, commercially produced, man-made compounds, which have been the “gateway” for thousands of victims of opioid addiction, are manufactured and sold by big pharmaceutical companies.

If synthetic opioids are the issue, what is the solution? How do thousands of individuals suffering with physical, psychological or emotional pain get relief? Is there a less-addictive pain management alternative that does not introduce opioids into a patient’s brain chemistry?

The alternative is medicinal marijuana. It is considered by many to be a homeopathic approach to pain management. The chemical compounds in cannabis, called cannabinoids, have been linked to many positive therapeutic benefits without the same level of addiction and overdose risks associated with opioids.

I can’t definitively say that marijuana isn’t a “gateway” drug. However, I do know that prescription opioids offer a more direct “pathway to the gate” of opioid addiction than marijuana does. Any reasonable, honest human being understands this. Those who maintain that medical marijuana shouldn’t be decriminalized because it’s a “gateway” drug are being intellectually insulting and dishonest. If “gateway” drugs shouldn’t be legal, then where is the bill to criminalize the manufacture and sale of fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine?

Decriminalization of medicinal marijuana is a positive step in the efforts to reduce opioid addiction in Indiana. Medical marijuana provides a potentially less-addictive alternative for those who need pain management assistance, a positive outcome all Hoosiers should support.