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Local researches head to Indianapolis for medical marijuana discussion

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Saving lives and alleviating pain is the goal for most doctors.  Now, the potential benefits of medical marijuana are front and center in Indiana, in light of the opioid crisis. 

For some, it started with a question: why is this plant different from other plants?

"A bunch of different studies. I screened 1,400 scientific articles of data and the effects of marijuana usage," explains Thomas Clark, a professor and chair of biology department at Indiana University, South Bend. 

But for others, it's personal.

"My father got diagnosed with advanced Parkinson's disease. And later cancer," says David Phipps, an advocate of medical marijuana, and the organizer of many pro-legalization town halls. 

"It really hit home with the true suffering of not just him, but other patients like him, and what they're going through," he adds. 

Clark has spent quite of bit of time and effort, learning about medicinal marijuana.

"What I found is that instead of just simply treating existing conditions, it actually is preventing a lot of life threatening illnesses," he explains."There's no excuse for it not to be available, given what we know."

On Saturday, he will be joining a panel, all trying to change legislators' minds.

"They've gone in with the assumption that it is a drug and it must be harmful," adds Clark.

Phipps agrees.

He says, it's common sense to want to help alleviate the pain and health problems of Hoosiers.

Especially, he says, when the alternatives are generally dangerous. 

"You'd be shocked about some of the side effects that some of those medications bring on," explains Phipps. "I know they have their uses, but so does medical cannabis, but it doesn't have the same side effects."

"No one has died from medical cannabis," he adds.

Both say, this shouldn't be a political problem.

Especially with the impact it could have on the detrimental opioid crisis Indiana is facing.

"In states where we have medical cannabis legal, we're seeing an average of 25% reduction of opioid death overdoes and addiction rates," says Phipps.  "We see medical cannabis as our best bet to fighting this."

It's a fight that researches believe, could be won if the state implemented legalization of medicinal marijuana. 

But also, a fight to help Hoosiers, improve their quality of life, free of pain.

"It's a moral issue. Especially when I started finding out all these preventative effects," says Clark. "Essentially what you're saying is we're going to arrest you for possessing something that could save your life."

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