Jim Nowacki doesn’t own a car, so the 62-year-old can be seen most days walking around Gary, Indiana.
And as of this past Sunday morning, he’ll be on foot as usual—walking south towards Indianapolis, a journey through winter rain and cold that will take at least five days. This long walk is in order for Nowacki to walk around the state capitol, lobbying state lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana.
Marijuana acceptance in America is at an all-time high, but in places like Indiana, where Vice President-elect Mike Pence is still governor, reefer madness rules. Police are dispatched to high schools where students are using cannabis-infused lollipops—purchased legally in other states—and meanwhile, patients for whom marijuana could provide relief are left to suffer.
Illinois and Michigan both allow medical marijuana, but despite several years of trying from lawmakers like state Sen. Karen Tallian, medical marijuana has been a no-go in the Indiana statehouse, with bills shot down in committee. As a result, as the Chicago Tribune reported, for some time, Indiana residents have been fleeing for other neighboring states in order to be able to use cannabis.
Hence, Nowacki’s 30-mile-a-day stroll across the heartland to the capital.
The irony of it is he doesn’t use cannabis himself.
He estimates it’s been 35 years or so since he last used marijuana, but says it’s a crime that fellow Hoosier Staters have to break the law or go somewhere else in order to access their preferred medicine.
“I’ll admit it, walking there is in part to gain publicity, but the issue is serious,” Nowacki told the newspaper, which notes that he’s walked between the two cities before (at least twice!!). “I think people should be able to use marijuana if there’s a legitimate medicinal benefit.”
Tallian plans to reintroduce legislation allowing medical marijuana this spring, but it’s unclear how much help she’ll get in—or what incoming Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Pence’s lieutenant governor, plans to do if cannabis gets any traction.
Other groups in Indiana are rallying support to legalize medical cannabis in the Hoosier State. One group, called Higher Fellowship, has been organizing rallies in each of the state’s 92 counties, the newspaper reported.
How effective will Nowacki’s lobbying be? Local legislators in Gary, with whom Nowacki is known to verbally spar with at public meetings, note his dialectic style borders on the “confrontational.”
Nowacki says that once he gets to Indianapolis, a few retired and recently elected lawmakers plan to receive him, and hopefully give him a place to sit down.
No word on how long Nowacki plans to be in Indy—or how he proposes to get back to Gary once he’s done.
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