Indiana resisting marijuana trend of neighboring states

Indiana’s Republican Statehouse leaders are firmly against taking any steps toward following neighboring states in legalizing marijuana use during the upcoming legislative session.

They might not be able to avoid talking about it during the 2020 election campaign.

Indiana lawmakers have not seriously debated proposals such as allowing medical marijuana or removing the threat of jail time for possessing small amounts of the drug, even as recreational marijuana sales have won approval in Michigan and Illinois and medical use is allowed in Ohio.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb says he’ll remain opposed as long as the federal government classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug, and the leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature back him.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray of Martinsville said he doesn’t see the value of allowing marijuana use at the same time lawmakers are considering raising the legal age for smoking cigarettes from 18 to 21.

“The idea of then legalizing a different kind of cigarette doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Bray said. “I don’t think it works very well for the productivity of our citizens in the workplace, so you’re going to see me very hesitant to go there.”

Advocates of legalization steps say they sense growing support in Indiana—and signs exist for that.

A poll last year by Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs found about 80% of Indiana adults favoring medical marijuana use and 40% supportive of legal recreational use, with just 16% backing the total ban.

Since then, the county prosecutor for Indianapolis has stopped pressing criminal charges against adults for possessing about one ounce or less of marijuana and officials in Lake County, which borders Chicago and is the state’s second-most populous county, are considering whether to give sheriff’s deputies the discretion to write a $50 to $250 ticket for small levels of marijuana, instead of taking someone to jail.

Republican state Attorney General Curtis Hill, another opponent of marijuana legalization, denounced both steps and called the Indianapolis decision “a curious strategy to put out a welcome mat for lawbreakers.”

Marijuana legalization looms as a likely campaign issue for the 2020 statewide elections.

The three Democrats seeking to challenge Holcomb’s reelection bid—state Sen. Eddie Melton of Gary, former state health commissioner Woody Myers and tech business executive Josh Owens—all support allowing some level of marijuana use, although Myers opposes recreational sales.

One of the Legislature’s most prominent legal marijuana advocates, Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian of Odgen Dunes, is in the 2020 attorney general’s race and plans to again file a bill to strip possible prison sentences for possession of small marijuana amounts for the legislative session that begins in early January.

“I think anybody who’s running who’s totally against this is running against the wind,” Tallian said. “… What I absolutely am fighting for is that we no longer saddle these people with criminal records. That’s always been my very first priority.”

Marijuana legalization is a topic where Democrats can distinguish themselves from Republicans next year and could help them attract supporters who otherwise might not vote, said Charles Taylor, the managing director of Ball State’s Bowen center.

The 2018 Ball State poll found stronger support among Democrats than Republicans for allowing recreational use, but just about one-fifth of Republicans said no marijuana use should be legal.

“It’s not like some of these issues where it is a small majority, and then you look, and one party is way in favor of something and the other is not,” Taylor said. “There is a lot of support across party affiliation.”

Nearly two-thirds of states have legalized marijuana, mainly for medical uses, even though federal health officials issued a new warning in August that smoking the drug is dangerous for adolescents, pregnant women and their developing babies.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, a former Indiana state health commissioner, said science shows that for teens marijuana carries a risk of affecting brain development, which continues in their 20s. Frequent marijuana use by teenagers is associated with changes in parts of the brain involved with attention, memory, decision-making and motivation.

Health officials have also linked a vaping illness that has killed at least 52 people across the country to products containing THC, the ingredient that produces a high in marijuana. Some 2,400 hospitalized cases have been reported nationally this year, with some of the highest rates in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Michigan’s handful of licensed recreational marijuana shops first opened to long lines of customers on Dec. 1 and reported about $1.6 million in sales during the first week. Illinois starts allowing recreational sales in January.

Indiana lawmakers realize that presents a dilemma regarding a drug for which state law makes possession of any amount a potential felony with a maximum sentence of three years in prison, although no resolution appears at hand.

“We’re in the process of getting surrounded by states that have either medical or recreational marijuana,” said Bray, the Republican Senate leader. “Whether we want it or not, that’s going to have a very direct impact on the state because people bring it across state lines easily, people driving under the influence of it. We’re going to have to figure out how we are going to react to that. We can’t just be in a vacuum.”

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5 thoughts on “Indiana resisting marijuana trend of neighboring states

  1. Thanks IBJ for publishing this Associated Press article! Hopefully some of our fearing legislators will read it! The facts don’t lie, and this article seems to only speak the truth. I was very impresssed with Senator Bray’s last statement about not living in a vacuum, this at least shows signs of an opening mind in his leadership role. Fear of the unknown and fear of the perpetuated misinformation is actually the GOP leadership’s fall-back excuse. I certainly hope they start some due diligence efforts, and not continue grasping at unscientific studies designed to mislead them even more.

  2. Indiana should be on the spear point of legalization, creating businesses, creating jobs, creating a renewable stream of tax revenue, and giving medicine to those in need. Instead, Indiana is missing the money boat. Poor leadership and frightened politicians do not have the good of the people in mind. Holcomb is beholden to Lilly’s because of the all the money they contributed to him.

  3. I also am posting this in hopes that our legislators will possibly read this.


    I say this as a voting republican. Indiana is currently a conservative state, but that can start to change very rapidly and I do not think that many of us want to see that.

    This is to our legislators— We voted you in to run the government at the will of the people, NOT for your personal beliefs and choices. Read the writing on the wall. 80% of the population wants marijuana legalized, at least medically. I am not a user of this product, but I am a firm believer in a government BY the people and FOR the people. If those of you in office currently FAIL to listen to your constituents, you may find yourself without a job in 2020. Also it seems that you are making your decisions regarding marijuana based on old, outdated beliefs. You need to update yourself on the current research on medical benefits and uses, as well as the successful legalization in other states. Legalization comes with the ability to control the content of the product in commercial sales. This means keeping the substance pure and free of other, more addictive drugs. Legalization comes with the ability to tax the sale of the product, adding revenue to the state. Legalization comes with a reduction in the burden of overcrowding on our prison population.

    I urge you to reconsider your choice here for the sake of your job in 2020. Even I, who could care less if the drug is legalized, will have to consider my vote carefully for a politician that will not listen to the people.

  4. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb says he’ll remain opposed as long as the federal government classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug, and the leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature back him.

    “We the Representatives of the people of the Territory of Indiana, in Convention met, at Corydon, on monday the tenth day of June in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States, the fortieth, having the right of admission into the General Government, as a member of the union, consistent with the constitution of the United States, the ordinance of Congress of one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, and the law of Congress, entitle “An act to enable the people of the Indiana Territory to form a Constitution and State Government, and for the admission of such state into the union, on an equal footing with the original States” in order to establish Justice, promote the welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity; do ordain and establish the following constitution or form of Government, and do mutually agree with each other to form ourselves into a free and Independent state, by the name of the State of Indiana.”

    Eric may not be familiar with Indiana Constitutions Preamble. “and do mutually agree with each other to form ourselves into a free and Independent state”

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