Candidate for sheriff says it's time to decriminalize marijuana

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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) — Just a few years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find any elected officials from Indiana at a rally calling for the legalization of marijuana.

But the town hall Indiana NORML is holding in Indianapolis Saturday is expected to draw several lawmakers and candidates among the hundreds of attendees. One of them is Democrat Jason Straw, who's running for Hamilton County sheriff.

He said the top threat to public safety is opioids, not marijuana.

"I don't see marijuana has a high priority and I hope prosecutors feel the same way because people are (overdosing) and dying from fentanyl" Straw said.

Straw is the first known law enforcement candidate in Indiana history to run on a pro-cannabis platform.

"I strongly support medical marijuana, so prohibition, I'd like to see it done away with because it's not more dangerous than alcohol," he said.

Straw is a retired Air Force captain and combat veteran. He did two tours in Afghanistan as a critical care trauma nurse, but he said it wasn't until he returned home that he saw the medical benefits of marijuana.

"I was prohibitionist right there with (Republican Attorney General) Curtis Hill up until met a patient who was going to die and his mom put him on hemp CBD and it saved his life," he said.

Straw is among the growing number of Hoosier candidates and officeholders pressing for change. He joins Democrats Sen. Karen Tallian (who introduced the state's first cannabis bill in 2011) and Rep. Sue Errington (who holds the record for most cannabis bills introduced in the House.)

Once the lone voices at the statehouse on the issue, they're now joined by a handful of Republicans, the most vocal of whom is Rep. Jim Lucas.

Lucas recently went to Colorado to learn about its experience with medical and recreational cannabis. During an interview with Eyewitness News, he said he tried several products.

Straw took a similar trip to Colorado in June. He, too, said he tried recreational marijuana (noting it was his first and only time.) Both did so legally. Neither brought any back to Indiana.

But Straw's situation is different. He's running for an office in which he would be faced with enforcing a law he doesn't agree with.

Asked how he would reconcile that, he responded, "you have to start somewhere and you have to set priorities...I'd like to see harder drugs coming off the street like meth and heroin."

Asked for his thoughts on the issue, Straw's Republican opponent, Capt. Dennis Quakenbush, commander of patrol for the sheriff's department ,shared this statement:

"As a law enforcement officer and a member of our executive branch of government, my job is to enforce the laws in place created by our elected legislators. As the next Sheriff of Hamilton County I will continue to collaborate with lawmakers on the impact future legislation may have on the safety of our community. I look forward to serving our great citizens as we keep Hamilton County one of the safest counties in the nation."