Will Weed Be Legal In Indiana Anytime Soon?

by Becca Stanek

While the fiasco of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was a definite low point for the Midwestern state it was a high point for Indiana marijuana enthusiasts. The RFRA, while closing the door on the rights of same-sex couples, quite literally opened the doors of the First Church of Cannabis in the state of Indiana. However, while the Hoosier state has a church for marijuana, it still has not legalized marijuana. But if the church has showed anything, it’s that the legalization of pot is a pretty darn popular idea in the state. So, will Indiana legalize anytime soon?

In January, two Indiana Democrats — Sen. Karen Tallian and Rep. Sue Errington — introduced bills in the Senate and the House, respectively, that would have legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state. However, neither of the bills made it very far. Tallian's medical marijuana bill did not even receive a public hearing. Errington's bill similarly did not advance.

The failures of these bills wasn't a huge surprise, though. According to The Indianapolis Star, Tallian has been trying to get similar medical marijuana measures passed for years now, and they have all largely failed. Indiana is a notoriously conservative state. Moreover, Indiana’s current legislature is overwhelmingly Republican.

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If even Tallian's bill — which focused specifically on legalizing marijuana for people with certain medical conditions, and which was presented in a very sympathetic manner — cannot pass, there’s no way Indiana will consider broader legalization legislation to take place anytime soon. According to Andy Downs, who spoke to the Star, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana, will likely be one of the last states to legalize.

It’s still a long shot. In spite of our rugged individualism, I don’t anticipate us being too early on that process. We are one of the two states that doesn’t allow Sunday alcohol sales. There are certain things that we accept as the way we operate and don’t accept changes just because others have.

However, what might just cause a bill, even for just medical marijuana, to gain traction is if legislators hear widespread support from their constituents, David Orentlicher of the Indiana University Robert S. McKinney School of Law said. He advised Hoosiers in support of medical marijuana to reach out to their legislators, because personal stories will likely be the biggest force of change.

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According to the polls, there should be quite a few Hoosiers poised to make those calls. A 2013 poll by Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs found that, at that point, 53 percent of Hoosiers supported the decriminalization of marijuana. Moreover, according to the poll, that number just kept rising from years past.

Indiana might still have a long way to go on the issue. However, if the battle over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act showed anything, it’s that Hoosiers can speak up for what they disagree with — and for what the support.

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