INDIANAPOLIS — You can find plenty of billboards advertising marijuana dispensaries in and around the Indiana-Michigan border in LaGrange and Steuben counties, but don’t expect to start seeing those shops in Indiana any time soon.
Although Indiana Democrats have made marijuana legislation a priority topic of discussion for their caucus, local Republican lawmakers say they don’t see marijuana gaining any real traction in Indianapolis this year when the General Assembly convenes next week.
“I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t think there’s support. I think there are still issues with people concerned about marijuana in general,” Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City, said.
Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in bordering Michigan and Illinois, while medical marijuana is authorized in Ohio, but despite being a topic approached every year, the state’s Republican supermajority hasn’t moved on it.
Abbott said he expects to see bills filed on legalization, especially following the changes in Michigan in 2018 and in Illinois in 2020, just not that those bills will go anywhere.
Glick said a sticking point remains that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, meaning it has high potential for abuse and has no accepted medical uses.
Marijuana proponents would argue those points, but Glick said she doesn’t expect Indiana would move toward legalization while the federal government still classifies marijuana at that highest level. If the schedule were decreased to a Schedule II — high potential for abuse but with acknowledged medical applications — that might lead Indiana and other states to more broad consideration.
Even in states with legalized recreational use, the framework growers and distributors have to use is non-standard because of the current federal climate.
“You can’t imagine that it doesn’t have positive uses, however the federal government is limiting the ability of those people to produce it and certainly is making it difficult to use the banking system. They can’t do the normal economic things most businesses can do to grow their business,” Glick said.
Glick also noted she had concerns about social and gateway impacts of marijuana, that makes it difficult to sign on at this time.
“I’m an old prosecutor so I have mixed emotions there,” she said. “It’s kind of like alcohol. Not everyone who consumes alcohol becomes an alcoholic … but with marijuana you don’t find too many people who are involved in drugs that didn’t start with marijuana.”
The state Democratic party is promoting legalization as a legislative priority, but the caucus doesn’t have enough members in either house in Indianapolis to actually push the issue at the statehouse at this time.
Instead, Democrats are seeking to take the issue on the road as part of state campaign tours in early 2022 and aim to build support with Hoosiers, who may be more likely to support legalization as an issue than many other left/right political battles.
A 2018 poll conducted by Ball State University showed that only 16% of surveyed Hoosiers thought marijuana should remain fully illegal in Indiana, with respondents split on whether it should only be legal for medical use or fully legal for personal use.
“Now more than ever, the climate is ripe for Indiana to legalize cannabis. Doing so will bring an economic boom for the state, help expunge records of Hoosiers, and introduce new therapeutic options for those who need it — including folks battling addiction,” said Drew Anderson, communications director for Indiana Democrats. “Legal marijuana is a win-win for the state, and Republicans opting out of this cash crop shows they’d rather put their partisanship ahead of Hoosier Common Sense and Indiana’s future.”