What progress has Indiana made in marijuana reform?
With other states embracing legalization, where does the Hoosier state stand?
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 19:11
In February of 2011, I wrote an article entitled “Medical marijuana may soon be legalized in Indiana.” To this day, it is the all-time most popular online story in IUSB Preface history, gaining more hits on average per day over the last year-and-a-half than any other article we’ve done since.
My point of bringing this up is not at all to brag, but instead to point out how popular the issue of marijuana legalization is, and how much it is discussed and supported in Indiana.
In the article, I discussed how Senate Bill 192 was passed by the Indiana Senate by a vote of 28 to 21. Proposed by Democratic Senator Karen Tallian, S.B. 192 concerned approving sociological and medical research of a variety of topics about cannabis, most focused on the benefits of possible legalization of medical marijuana and the decriminalization and even legalization of possession of certain amounts of marijuana.
For the past couple years, Senator Tallian has been Indiana’s most outspoken and influential politician in support of marijuana reform in the state of Indiana.
After I wrote that article, I never heard or read of any updates on the progress of the proposal. When I was recently asked to write another piece about the subject of cannabis legalization (inspired by recent progress of the issue in other parts of the nation), I decided to do some research and find out just what had happened to S.B. 192 and where Indiana lawmakers stood on the subject.
Since the time of the article, the measure had been slightly amended and renamed twice, first as Senate Resolution 70 and now currently as Senate Bill 347. Given its last known hearing on Jan. 24, 2012, the bill was decided to be tabled instead of voted on due to its controversy and the fact that 2012 was an election year where lawmakers didn’t want the extra distraction or attention of cannabis reform affecting their campaigns.
Interestingly enough, the 2012 elections actually ended up bringing even more national attention to marijuana reform than any other election in American history.
In the 2012 elections, voters chose to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the states of Colorado via Amendment 64 and Washington via Initiative 502. Under these new measures, possession of limited amounts and use of marijuana by persons of age 21 and older will no longer be a crime.
Oregon voters had a similar choice presented on their ballot with Measure 80, but their initiative to legalize marijuana was turned down by a vote of 54 percent. Maryland voters decided to legalize medicinal marijuana prescription and use. Even though these laws are not protected at the federal level (possession of any amount of pot it illegal under federal law), it is evident that America is undergoing a change in public attitudes towards cannabis.
So now that the elections are over and the nation seems to becoming more accepting of the idea of marijuana reform, it was only a matter of time before the Indiana government would be asked to reconsider their own stance on the issue as well.
Right on cue, Senator Tallian is at it again.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Senator Tallian said on November 9 that she plans to re-introduce S.B. 347 and feels that her fellow senators and other government officials in Indiana have been increasingly accepting in their attitudes towards marijuana reform over her last couple years in office.
In addition to Senator Tallian’s never-ending push to get Indiana to at least discuss and research the idea of how Indiana could use decriminalization of cannabis to its benefit, another state lawmaker wants to introduce a separate proposal. According to the Indianapolis Star, Republican Senator Brent Steele has stated that he plans to introduce a new legislation that would change marijuana possession of 10 grams or less to an infraction, a much lesser charge than the misdemeanor that it currently carries.
All of these factors combined—the recent national attention being brought to marijuana reform, the campaigning on behalf of cannabis research and decriminalization by multiple Indiana state senators, and the interesting fact that it is receiving bi-partisan support at the state level—show that the reality of medical use, decriminalization and perhaps even legalization of marijuana may be gaining more momentum in Indiana than ever before.
While possession of any forms or amounts of the drug is still currently illegal in the Hoosier state, it seems that government leniency of criminal charges and a more accepting attitude of the substance is growing in the Indiana Statehouse. As the movement gains support at both the legal and grassroots levels, it seems inevitable that at some point in time, Indiana will have to finally address the issue. When it does, we will get our first real impression of just how close or far away we are from seeing serious change on the matter of marijuana in our home state.