Although many predict Indiana will be one of the last states to legalize marijuana in a manner that allows it to be consumed without fear of a prison term, a couple of state lawmakers, each with a completely different agenda, have introduced proposals aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in 2016.
Democratic Senator Karen Tallian and Representative Sue Errington recently submitted measures to the Indiana General Assembly, which seek the creation of a medical marijuana program. However, neither lawmaker is walking into the ring this year with much confidence of being taken seriously enough by the Republican gatekeeper to manifest positive results.
This year will mark Tallian’s fifth attempt at pushing her proposal, which would establish a medical marijuana program for patients suffering from debilitating conditions, and the second for Errington’s move to legalize non-intoxicating cannabis oil for children suffering from seizures. So far, the Republican dominated House and Senate have refused to allow any marijuana-related proposal to even get a hearing.
Although there was some hope that a Congressional rider attached to last year’s federal spending bill, which was renewed again for inclusion in the 2016 Fiscal Year budget, would help relax Republicans on the issue of medical marijuana, both lawmakers were denied the chance to plead their case in front of the committee in 2015.
Tallian recently told the South Bend Tribune that she is not holding her breath for different results in the current session, yet she believes she could gain some ground if only given an opportunity.
“We move by inches down there, so I’d take every inch I could get,” Tallian said. “I have a lot of votes over there on the Republican side if I could just get a hearing.”
As for Errington and her proposal to legalizing cannabis oil for children suffering from epilepsy, Republican forces are not even prepared to stand behind this restrictive proposal over concerns that it would lead to a barrage of hash labs popping up all over the state. Last year, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council advised the committee against a hearing for Errington’s bill because they feared the production of CBD oil would cause explosions and other issues of public safety.
Nevertheless, even though her chances of getting a hearing this year are shrouded in almost certain failure, Errington wants to keep the subject in front of the legislature because she says, most of her constituents support legalizing marijuana more than they do Sunday alcohol sales.
There is some belief that the Indiana General Assembly’s unwillingness to hear bills aimed at marijuana reform is largely influenced by Republican Governor Mike Pence. Reports show that the private prison company GEO Group has contributed a substantial amount of money to Pence’s campaigns, forcing the governor to sign a contract promising to maintain 90 percent occupancy before they built a prison in New Castle.
With national data showing 88 percent of all drug-related arrests are for marijuana, it makes perfect sense why the governor is interested in keeping it illegal for as long as humanly possible.
In fact, Pence has fought in recent years to toughen the penalties for low-level marijuana offenders, fortunately most possession charges have now been reduced to misdemeanors. Prior to 2014, possession of a single joint could get someone locked up in an Indiana prison for up to three years.
What do you think? Do the Indiana medical marijuana proposals have any chance of success?