Some Indiana lawmakers plan to introduce marijuana legislation this session

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – Some Indiana lawmakers are working to introduce legislation that would legalize marijuana.

Earlier this week, the Indiana Democratic Party called for medical and recreational marijuana to be legalized in the Hoosier State.

Jeff Staker and his organization Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis have advocated for medicinal marijuana use for the past five years.

“They don’t want to feel like criminals,” Staker said.

Staker said he launched the organization after he began considering medical marijuana instead of oxycodone to manage his chronic back pain. He knows some fellow veterans who go across state lines to obtain medicinal cannabis, he added.

“People are benefiting from it, and Indiana can do this in a safe and reliable way,” Staker said.

So far, 36 states allow medicinal marijuana use, and 18 states permit non-medical use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) said he’s working on a medical marijuana bill modeled after a law passed in Alabama.

“We can and have the opportunity to show Hoosiers that we’re moving forward and really fighting for issues that they want to see us take up,” State Sen. Ford said.

Many Republican state lawmakers remain opposed to any form of marijuana legalization.

“You make the argument about having that substantial of public policy change just ’cause you’re trying to chase dollars makes no sense to me, so I’m in the same place I’ve been,” said House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers).

A small handful of Indiana GOP lawmakers support some form of marijuana legalization. Some others say they’re not opposed to a conversation on the issue in the legislature.

“I think there’s always room for discussion on that,” said House Majority Leader Matt Lehman (R-Berne). “I had a resolution a couple years ago that said let’s talk about it. The feds have to react first. They got to get this off of Schedule 1. I think they’re moving in that direction.”

Still, political observers point out there doesn’t appear to be enough support yet in the Republican supermajority for any marijuana legislation to move forward.

“Until there’s some movement at the federal level, I really don’t see a whole lot of movement here at the state level,” said Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, an attorney who serves as editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org.

The earliest any legislation could be considered is January.

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