Whenever I am asked how far Indiana is from legal marijuana, my response is 80 miles.
Just hop on Interstate 74 to Illinois. Get off on exit 220, make a right and go about half a mile to the Sunnyside Dispensary. You will know you are there because the parking lot will have more Hoosier plates than the Indy 500. The same can be said for locations in Michigan.
In this legislative session, Indiana Democrats say, they will push for marijuana legalization. However, as you know, they are in the superminority, so don’t expect too much to happen from them. Republicans, on the other hand, have the potential to be a different story.
A poll taken in September shows that most Republicans in Indiana favor some form of legalization when it comes to marijuana.
The poll conducted by BK Strategies shows that 52% of Republicans surveyed favored legalization for both medicinal and recreational use. Only 40% opposed. That’s compared to 65% of the general population supporting both medicinal and adult use, with only 28% opposing it. And 67% of independents supported it, while 20% opposed it.
When it comes to legalization for medicinal purposes only, the numbers were much higher. The results showed that 74% of Republicans supported medicinal marijuana use, while only 17% opposed it. For all voters, 79% supported medicinal use while only 13% were against it. Among independents, the numbers were 77% to 9%.
On the subject of whether cannabis is immoral, an overwhelming majority said no. About 67% of Republicans, 78% of all voters, and 85% of independent voters said no. So did 71% of regular churchgoers and 61% of self-identified Christian conservatives.
And at the end of the survey—after respondents had listened to messaging in support of legal and medicinal marijuana—approval went higher.
The results of the BK Strategies poll were pretty similar to one conducted by Indy Politics back in August. We surveyed more than 400 Marion County voters. We found about two-thirds of voters (65%) support the full legalization of recreational and medicinal use of marijuana, with an additional 20% supporting the legalization of marijuana strictly for therapeutic use.
And 76% of Democrats, 62% of independents and 51% of Republicans support full legalization, with an additional 17% of Democrats and independents and 26% of Republicans supporting the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use.
The BK Strategies poll surveyed 600 likely general election voters with an additional oversample of 100 Republican voters and had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points. The Republican-specific data had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5.3 percentage points.
I bring this up because, with the broad support for legalized pot, there is no reason the GOP can’t start the ball rolling on legalization. I understand the hesitancy due to federal law, but there is no reason my Republican friends can’t start the process on legal weed, so that, when it does become legal—and it will—all the state will have to do is flip a switch.
At least 33 states have legalized marijuana for either recreational or medicinal purposes. That means Indiana has at least 33 states it can look at to see exactly how the system should work.
Plus, millions in tax revenue can be generated. And as technology develops, we will be able to determine whether someone was operating a vehicle under the influence.
So, I frankly don’t see why my Republican friends won’t get the ball rolling on marijuana legalization. It’s not rocket science. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to hit I-74; I have some “errands” to run.•
Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian.
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