Highlighting robust public support and the potential for an economic boon to the state, Democrats in Indiana said Monday that they will pursue marijuana legalization in the forthcoming legislative session.
The Indiana Democratic Party used the announcement to broadcast “its full support for the effort to legalize recreational cannabis across the state,” and to put pressure on Hoosier State Republicans, namely Governor Eric Holcomb, to get on board with the reform effort.
The Democrats also pointed to a recent survey showing that eight out of 10 Indiana adults back marijuana legalization.
“Legalizing marijuana in some form is supported by about 80-percent of Hoosiers and would provide the opportunity to create an additional revenue stream for the state, create good-paying jobs, develop a long-term cash crop for Indiana’s ag and business communities, provide medicinal opportunities for people like the state’s veterans and seniors, and could start the process of expunging records for simple possession across the state,” the Indiana Democratic Party said in the release.
Monday’s announcement from the Democrats came on the eve of Organization Day, the ceremonial launch of the legislative calendar when lawmakers are sworn in and make preparations with their colleagues for the upcoming session, which will begin in January.
Mike Schmuhl, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said in the announcement that Indiana constituents have looked to their neighbors to recognize the merits of legalization, with fellow midwestern states Illinois and Michigan both ending prohibition on pot inside their respective borders.
Democrats said that Indiana residents are currently contributing “millions of dollars to Michigan and Illinois economies—where cannabis is legalized.” Legalizing marijuana in Indiana, the Democrats said, would ensure that the state economy “would have a guaranteed cash crop in the long-term for the state’s businesses and farming communities, creating a revenue stream for the General Assembly to use in future sessions.”
“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,” Schmuhl said.
“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.”
Legalization would mark a massive change for law enforcement in Indiana, where, under current law, “possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
MPP said that Indiana is “now one of only 14 states with no effective medical cannabis law, and one of only 19 that still imposes jail time for simple possession of cannabis.”
The state Democratic Party said that, along with broad public approval, there is also some bipartisan support for legalization, with some GOP lawmakers eager to take the step.
But Holcomb, currently serving his second term as governor, has voiced opposition to legalization in the past. In 2019, Holcomb acknowledged that he smoked weed when he was in college, but that he could not get behind legalization until the federal government acted first.
“If the law changed, we would look at all the positive or adverse impacts it would have,” the governor said at the time. “I’m not convinced other states have made a wise decision.”