Indiana News

Indiana Democrats call for marijuana legalization

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Democrats in Indiana on Monday called for the legalization of marijuana, but their hopes have little prospect if past legislative history is any gauge.

More than 78% of Hoosiers think it’s unnecessary for people to be arrested for simple possession, the state Democratic Party says in a news release.

State Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie and state Rep. Vanessa Summers of Indianapolis say they are among the 80% of people in Indiana who support legalizing marijuana in some form, according to a news release from Indiana House Democrats.

“Legalization can generate an additional state revenue stream, create good-paying union jobs, bolster agriculture and business, allow for alternative medical treatments, and address racial disparities in our criminal justice systems,” the release from Errington and Summers said.

Indiana allows cannabidiol (CBD) and low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) use, but recreational marijuana use and medical cannabis are illegal in Indiana.

In the United States, recreational use is legal in 18 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The group also notes 36 states and four territories allow the medical use of cannabis products.

In neighboring states, according to the Conference of State Legislatures:

  • Illinois and Michigan allow adult recreational use and medical use in regulated programs.
  • Ohio has a medical cannabis program.
  • Kentucky allows CBD and low THC use.

Illinois legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2019. The state’s marijuana dispensaries sold about $670 million in marijuana in 2020 and took in $205.4 million in tax revenue, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which oversees the dispensaries.

Michigan legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2018. More than $31 million was collected from the 10% adult-use marijuana excise tax in the 2020 fiscal year, according to the state’s Department of Treasury. Combined with fees, $45.7 million was available for distribution to municipalities and counties.

At the federal level, cannabis remains an illegal drug that’s considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use.

The Indiana Democrats’ legislative proposal is bound to be stymied by the supermajority of Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, said during his reelection campaign in 2020 more study is needed before Indiana allows marijuana for medical use.

Two measures proposed by Democrats in 2020 made little or no progress. State Sen. Karen Tallian’s bill called for lowing the penalty for the possession of less than an ounce of weed. State Sen. Greg Taylor’s bill would have created a defense for possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana if the individual has a valid out-of-state medical marijuana card.

Some Indiana prosecutors have already limited their prosecution of many marijuana possession cases. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, a Democrat, announced in September 2019 that his office will no longer prosecute adults on possession cases of less than 1 ounce when that charge is the only or the most serious charge.

A bill filed in 2020 by State Sen. Mike Young, a Republican, would have given the attorney general the power to prosecute certain crimes if the prosecuting attorney doesn’t. That measure also saw no action from the legislature.

Statements

“The continued criminalization of marijuana increases racial disparities in our criminal justice system and limits economic opportunities. The decision by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to no longer prosecute simple possession of marijuana cases has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and has kept low-level and non-violent offenders out of our legal system.

“Hoosiers across the state deserve a more fair and equitable justice system, and the legalization of marijuana is a significant step towards that reform.”

Ryan Mears, Marion County prosecutor

““Hoosiers have seen the impact that recreational and medicinal cannabis use has made on the states around us, and not only are they contributing to neighboring states’ economies, Indiana is now on the verge of losing out altogether. The Republican supermajority at the statehouse is losing its economic common sense if they do not join Democrats this session in making this opportunity a winner for the Hoosier State. Marijuana is a really popular issue, and a large majority of Hoosiers want to see this get done. Democrats are ready to take the lead on this effort because it’s a win-win for Indiana, and it’ll fulfill the Party’s consistent promise of creating a better future for Hoosier families. It’s time to legalize recreational cannabis across Indiana.” 

Mike Schmuhl, chairman of Indiana Democratic Party

“I applaud the state Democratic party for pushing the conversation on marijuana legalization. Legalization of medical marijuana would provide safe and regulated avenues for pain management for Hoosiers who live with chronic pain and veterans who struggle with post traumatic stress disorder. By continuing to criminalize marijuana, we are driving suffering Hoosiers into the addictive world of synthetic drugs and feeding our state’s already devastating opioid crisis. It’s time to give Hoosiers a better option that will not only improve their daily lives, but the well-being of Indiana as a whole.”

Indiana Rep. Sue Errington, a Muncie Democrat

“Rarely has public support from every corner of the political spectrum been so aligned on a single issue. Legalizing marijuana is not only the popular thing to do – it is the right thing to do. Continued criminalization hurts us all and goes against our professed ideals of freedom, liberty and justice. Black and brown communities have suffered disproportionately from the War on Drugs causing generations of hurt and harm. If the Indiana General Assembly continues to say ‘no’ to common-sense, popular policies Indiana will continue to lose. Hoosier families deserve the economic and medical opportunities and restorative justice that marijuana provides.”    

Indiana Rep. Vanessa Summers, an Indianapolis Democrat

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