Indiana State Senator files two marijuana reform bills

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Legalizing medical and adult use cannabis is on Indiana Democrats’ agenda for 2019. But one state senator isn’t waiting for January’s legislative session to get the ball rolling. So after the ball drops and Indiana lawmakers return to work January 3, State Senator Karen Tallian’s two cannabis bills will be waiting for them.

“The Pot Legislator” Files Two Bills to Legalize and Regulate Cannabis Industry in Indiana

Democratic State Senator Karen Tallian has been a legislative champion of cannabis-related initiatives since at least 2011, when she introduced her first bill to create a state-sponsored study on the impact of Indiana’s criminalization of marijuana. Despite opposition in the Indiana House, Tallian was able to advance the study. Then, in 2012 (and again in 2013) she tried to reduce sentences for marijuana-related convictions. But those bills never moved out of committee. Neither did Tallian’s 2014 effort to legalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. Or her 2015 effort to legalize medical cannabis and set up a Department of Marijuana Enforcement (DOME) to replace the federally-supported marijuana eradication program.

Sen. Tallian’s dedication to progressive marijuana legislation in a highly conservative state prompted Indianapolis’ alt-weekly Nuvo to dub her “The Pot Legislator” in 2015. But until this week, Sen. Tallian hadn’t forwarded any recent cannabis-related legislation. That changed Tuesday, when Tallian filed two bills. The first would legalize “recreational marijuana” possession of less than two ounces. The second would establish a Cannabis Compliance Commission tasked with overseeing state regulation of the sale, use and consumption of cannabis. “I am proposing the creation of a cannabis regulatory agency in order to protect the interests of Hoosiers,” Tallian said in a press release.

Indiana Senator Wants to Build Off Legal Hemp Program

Back in March 2018, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill legalizing hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products in Indiana. SB 52 guarantees access to CBD oil to residents of Indiana. However, beyond setting stringent labelling requirements it does little to properly regulate products. “We recently legalized the use of CBD oil and industrial hemp, but the state has no structure in place to make sure that these products are properly regulated for consumers,” Tallian said. The Cannabis Compliance Commission the Senator’s bill would establish could find its footing regulating CBD and hemp, so that “when Indiana legalizes medical or recreational marijuana, the structure will be in place,” Sen. Tallian added.

The Senator’s use of “when” sounds confident. However, Republicans, who historically have opposed cannabis reform, hold a strong majority in the Indiana General Assembly. So a coordinated legislative effort by state Democrats will need to win the support of lawmakers on the other side of the aisle. And it’s not clear whether Democrats will be able to garner that much support in early 2019.

In addition to the two bills filed Tuesday, Sen. Tallian plans to file another to create a statewide medical cannabis program. Support for both medical and adult use legalization continues to increase across the Indiana electorate, representing a solid majority. But voters can’t pass legislation through ballot initiatives alone. Therefore, “it is up to the legislature to follow the will of the people,” Sen. Tallian said.

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