INDIANAPOLIS – At the Statehouse this summer, Indiana lawmakers will discuss the use of cannabis. Legislative leaders say they’ll study the health benefits and consequences of THC products, as well as potential decriminalization.
It comes amid a ramped-up effort by some state lawmakers to legalize cannabis in Indiana. Former State Senator Jim Merritt is speaking one-on-one with IN Focus on legalization efforts. He’s continuing to call on the Indiana GOP to back those proposals. He stressed that the summer committee is focusing in on the health benefits, rather than economic.
“The overwhelming feeling in Indiana, as far as I know, is cannabis in a health situation,” Sen. Merritt said. “I think the idea of cannabis coming into the state… if we can just legalize and regulate it, I think we would have more of a control over it.”
Sen. Merritt is not expecting quick action on the wide-ranging policy issue. Sen. Merritt is also calling for increased regulations on Delta-8 THC, like requiring ID and behind-the-counter sales. He says we need to see what best practices are from other states who have already gone through the legalization process. Sen. Merritt thinks it will be “a couple years” before a proposal makes it to the finish line in Indiana.
However, Sen. Merritt says he’s optimistic for a medical cannabis bill to be seriously considered in the next legislative session.
“I think you’ll see a medical cannabis in the legislature next year,” Sen. Merritt said. “Ohio has had a good experience with it, they have a good model.”
State Rep. Terri Austin (D – Anderson) says she’ll evaluate all of the potential windfalls, both economically and societally. She says she’ll also be studying the impacts in several other states that have already passed new laws on cannabis.
“What we really want to know is: Is it a wise move for Indiana in the long run?” Rep. Austin said. “What can we learn from those states that have passed legalization or decriminalization efforts?”
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) says the committee will have an important job to guide where Indiana goes next on the issue.
“We have to figure out where we are and this is going to be an important conversation to have this summer for where Indiana moves,” Sen. Bray said.
Watch more from our interview with former Sen. Merritt, plus lawmaker reactions to the study committee, in the video above.