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Marijuana bills get bipartisan support but face uncertain future

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Legislative leaders this week gave no indication they plan to allow legislation on legalizing cannabis to proceed.

Lawmakers from both parties have filed legislation to legalize marijuana in some form. Rep. Jake Teshka, R-South Bend, and two other House Republicans filed a bill that sets up a system to tax and regulate marijuana for medicinal use and for recreational use for people ages 21 and older. In an interview with News 8 on Monday, Teshka said the bill’s provisions would only take effect if the federal government removes marijuana from the Schedule I list of controlled substances. Schedule I substances are those that the federal government determines to have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

“I do think there have been shifting attitudes in the legislature as it pertains to this issue,” he said. “And I think attitudes will continue to shift.”

Democrats have filed bills of their own. Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, filed legislation on Wednesday that would allow the medicinal use of cannabis while Rep. Blake Johnson, D-Indianapolis, filed a bill to allow recreational use. Taylor told reporters this week the legislature is out of step with the wishes of Indiana voters. He pointed to the most recent Ball State University Hoosier Survey, which showed 85% of respondents said marijuana should be legalized in some form.

“Yet despite all these views by Hoosiers, I’m concerned, based on past trends, that we’ll still be going to fail to get these policies passed,” he said.

Whether such legislation moves forward is another matter. Top-ranking Republicans in the House and especially the Senate, who ultimately control which bills get heard or voted on, have been hostile to such legislation in the past. So far this session, they have given no indication they plan to treat such legislation differently. Gov. Eric Holcomb has repeatedly said he won’t sign any legalization legislation as long as the Drug Enforcement Administration lists marijuana as Schedule I. He reaffirmed that position when News 8 asked him about Teshka’s bill.

“I’m not going to start, in year seven, to pick and choose which laws I want to enforce. And so I’m certainly not going to chase some initiative for financial gain if I believe it’s illegal,” he said. “And so up until it is legal to have that conversation, then I’ll address that ‘if’ as if it were reality.”