Indiana is the latest state to see one of its major political parties propose legislation to legalize marijuana. The current aim is to push for both recreational and medical legalization during the next legislative session, which starts on January 11, 2022.
Polls were cited by the Democrats showing that approval for marijuana legalization within the state could be as high as 80%. Yet similar attempts to pass bills even for medical use in the past have failed. Only time will tell if a bi-partisan effort can be made to bring legal marijuana to the people of Illinois.
Legalization - Major Issue for 2022 Elections
If the issue is not settled in favor of legalization during the next legislative session, many Democratic party officials in the state say it’ll be a voting motivator in the upcoming election. With the state’s current governor calling for more study and delaying for federal approval first, voters might look for more supportive candidates in the next state and midterm elections. However, polling has been limited to only a few thousand people, so it’s hard to truly estimate future voter turnout on a single issue like marijuana legalization.
Growing Marijuana Legalization Demand on All Sides
Surrounded by Michigan and Illinois, Indiana has two examples of exploding marijuana industries to watch as they decide on their own policies. Some business owners and residents are frustrated at seeing money flow to neighboring states but not their own. Michigan has allowed for medical and recreational use since 2018. Just in 2020 alone, the state took in over $31 million in excise taxes. Illinois waited until 2019 to legalize both recreational and medical use, but they still made $200 million in tax revenue in 2020. Even Ohio allows for medical cannabis use for certain conditions. Those high numbers appeal to business owners and state officials alike, making demand within the state grow for legalization.
With 18 states fully legalizing recreational use for adults and 36 states offering at least medical access to marijuana, the trend is for states to give in to legalization efforts. Even if Indiana does not take a major step like full legalization during the 2022 legislative session, the pressure to create some kind of dispensary program will continue to grow. Indiana residents may not have to consign themselves to waiting for a federal marijuana decriminalization decision just to see their home state make moves in the right direction.
Homegrown Attempts to Adjust Prevailing Attitudes
Some local officials aren’t waiting for state-level changes to do what they can within their communities. In Marion County, in particular, the prosecutor announced the intent to stop prosecuting adults possessing under an ounce of marijuana if that was the most serious charge. While this change occurred in 2019, so far, no other counties have followed suit.
Similar bills presented by Democratic representatives, such as State Senator Karen Tallian’s effort to lower penalties for possession of under an ounce, simply failed to make any progress during the 2020 or 2021 sessions. Even bills with Republican authorship or support attracted no more attention than usual. While Indiana has not moved so far to increase penalties or limitations on marijuana above federal limits except on a local scale, it hasn’t started moving towards a more accepting legal approach either. It may be that, like in many other states, legalization will come all at once rather than in steps.
On the grassroots level, support for marijuana legalization is widespread. Veterans, chronically ill patients, doctors, therapists, and social justice advocates are all united with their support of a bill for the State General Assembly. As one of only 14 states still lacking a medical cannabis law, Indiana has lost some residents to their refusal to keep up with changing demands for new treatments. While CBD and low THC products can be used legally in the state, many people desire the effects that only come from high THC products instead.
Residents of Indiana may love their state, but it’s undeniable that some will love it a little more if they decide to approve marijuana legislation this year. Hopefully, the hard work of state senators and homegrown activists alike can push past the reluctance of the governor and some other legislative hurdles.