Article by TG Branfalt, Ganjapreneur
Jeff Staker has lived a life of purpose: 11 years as a Marine Corp sniper, a drill instructor, father of four and grandfather of five, and the 51-year-old now serves as a firefighter for the U.S. government in Indiana. He’s also a leading figure in the fight for medical cannabis access in his home state as the head of Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis. And while Staker is sort of an unlikely advocate – self-described as a “conservative liberal” – he’s motivated by letters of support from veterans and bad public health legislation, namely the federal Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Staker has quickly caught the attention of both lawmakers and activists in the state.
“When I get up in front of a politician, I’m not afraid you know, I’m right up in their face,” he said in an interview with Ganjapreneur. “But they need it. I’m not there to beg or ask them for anything – I’m there to tell them.”
Currently, there are 13 bills related to cannabis stuck in legislative purgatory in Indiana. They include an industrial hemp bill, a proposal allowing patients to seek and possess medical cannabis from other states, a measure to set up a system allowing low-THC cannabis use for people with epilepsy, another would provide an affirmative defense to possess CBD if the person or child has been diagnosed with certain medical conditions, and eight more related to broader medical cannabis legalization under varying schemes for varying conditions. None of those bills have been moved past a first reading or out of the committee they were referred to. Staker thought that bills dealing with medical treatments would go to a health committee; instead, most are moved to the Corrections and Criminal Law Senate Committee who on Jan. 13 held a hearing on SB.15, which would allow hemp oil therapies for children suffering from intractable epilepsy.
“There’s a reason why these certain bills go to certain committees,” he said. “They’re trying to get them to die out real fast.”
For Staker, who hasn’t consumed any cannabis in 35 years, medical cannabis access is not a political issue – it’s a moral one. In his conversations with high-powered lawmakers, Staker said he is often met with the same excuse – “we’re so conservative.”