WASHINGTON, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — There is a new push to urge state lawmakers to legalize marijuana in Indiana’s next legislative session and two Wabash Valley residents are behind the latest efforts.

Bud’s Elixers in Washington, Indiana has become a home base, of sorts, for those who want to see marijuana legalized in Indiana. Eric Walford is a co-owner. He is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. He explains, “The 2007, 2008 market crash just set my life into upheaval. I lost everything.”

So, Walford went to the Veteran Affairs hospital for anxiety and severe depression. He says they prescribed him pills, then more pills to address the side effects from the first set of medications.

“I suffered some sever side effects from those pills and, after events in 2009, I was diagnosed with an hypoxic brain injury,” Walford explains. “I was lost and it was significant and the only answer to treating my symptoms was to give me more pills.”

Then, Walford discovered medical marijuana. He says it changed his entire life.

“I started medicating with this plant and it’s given me a second chance at life. I get to live a normal life and not drugged out of my mind and in isolation.”

Local nurse advocates for legalization in Indiana

Shelley Macdonald has a similar story to tell. She is a registered nurse and has seen how marijuana can help all sorts of conditions. “To treat pain, sleep, some PTSD, anxiety, depression but the biggest one was pain and many of those people are over 50 years old.”

Macdonald claims marijuana saved her life as well.

“I started down the opiate road. The doctors were prescribing me opioids and, at the same time, I’m working in a rehab unit and I’m watching patients, how quickly they are becoming addicted to these medications and they weren’t working. They were wearing off before it was time for their next dose. The look in their eyes just really spoke to me and I said, ‘this is not how my story is going to end.'”

Now, Shelley is doing much better, but she says the stigma around marijuana use is still prevalent.

“This isn’t your stoner down the street. These are professionals. Medical professionals, doctors, lawyers, teachers, librarians, all looking for alternatives to their symptoms,” Macdonald said.

ISP: Pot possession could land you in jail

Macdonald hopes Indiana lawmakers will look at the state’s marijuana laws when it reconvenes for the next legislative session. But, until that day comes, pot is still illegal in Indiana, warns Sgt. Matt Ames with Indiana State Police.

“In the state of Indiana, if you’re caught with marijuana, it can be a class B misdemeanor with 180 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. If you’re caught with it a second time, it becomes a felony and you’re looking at 30 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.”

Sgt. Ames says people who use marijuana are more likely to be involved in a traffic accident. Stoned drivers are also more likely to have slower reaction times behind the wheel.

And, while state lawmakers may not be on board with legalization yet, people like Eric hope their day will come.

“I promise you there are people who are suffering, there are veterans who are in jail for consuming a plant which treats a system in our bodies and that’s the only things that they’ve done and that’s just wrong and I know that Hoosiers have big hearts and we’re compassionate and, some sick people need relief.”

Eric and Shelley held a town hall this week where people came together to discuss the issue of marijuana legalization. They had community members, law enforcement and even some lawmakers there.