Indiana lawmakers have not been real receptive throughout the years when presented with legislation to legalize marijuana. Even measures aimed at simply decriminalizing the herb have been widely ignored and even mocked by Governor Mike Pence, who recently signed a law to increase the penalties for individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses. So, when Senator Karen Tallian announced plans towards the end of 2014 to introduce a bill in the upcoming session aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, her determination on this issue was met with some skepticism and a lack of enthusiasm.
However, Tallian has since revealed that, unlike her previous attempts to legalize the leaf, her latest measure, Senate Bill 284, would serve to create a medical marijuana pilot program in Indiana that would regulate cannabis in a manner similar to prescription drugs and allow only those patients suffering from specific debilitating conditions access to legal weed. The bill would also allow for the creation of a new agency called the Indiana Department of Marijuana Enforcement, which would oversee every aspect of the program.
“This bill is only a very small, very careful first step: we would allow a card program and authorize the new agency to set it up,” Tallian told The NW Times. “After that, a new board and study committee can make recommendations for how to do sales, regulations, quality control and some of the other issues that need to be sorted out to ensure Hoosiers receive the compassionate care allowed in 23 other states.”
The Indiana lawmaker seems to understand the sideshow of Hoosier politics enough to realize that in order to earn the possibility of the state taking on a medical marijuana program, at any level, it must allow for popular pharmaceutical companies, like Eli Lilly, to get in on the action. It is for this reason that Senate Bill 284 also allows Indiana universities and drug manufacturers to explore to potential health benefits of cannabis through on-site research.
“There is much more research to be done on the use of cannabis to treat serious health conditions,” she said. “That research is simply not being done here in Indiana, because the state does not allow it.”
Other Indiana lawmakers, like Democrat Scott Pelath of Michigan City, who recently lost his father to cancer, have sided with Tallian on this issue and believe the time has finally come for the legislature to get serious about providing sick Hoosiers with access to medicinal cannabis. “People are ready to face these changes,” Pelath recently told The Indiana Business Journal.
Hoosiers are encouraged by the tenacity of Senator Tallian and her efforts to change the marijuana laws in Indiana, said Bill Levin, Chairman of the Board for Re-Legalize Indiana, during a recent interview with High Times. “Senator Tallian has championed cannabis issues over the last few years. In Indiana, its like chipping rock with water, but with the Fed turning down, the ease of re-establishing sane cannabis laws in Indiana is truly on our horizon,” he said.
Unfortunately, while Tallian’s medical marijuana pilot program is already receiving an outpouring of support, political experts claim the likelihood of this legislation going the distance during the 2015 session is next to none. “It’s still a long shot. In spite of our rugged individualism, I don’t anticipate us being too early on that process,” Andy Downs, head of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, told The Indianapolis Star. “We are one of two states that doesn’t allow Sunday alcohol sales. There are certain things that we accept as the way we operate and don’t accept changes just because others have.”
Nevertheless, Tallian hopes by introducing a more restrictive bill this year, the Republican-dominated legislature will at least allow a hearing on the issue and not just disregard it as they have done with her five previous proposals.