Why Indiana is unlikely to vote to legalize Recreational Marijuana?

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Why Indiana is unlikely to vote to legalize Recreational Marijuana?

Ohio voters' decision Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana paves the way for its availability in three of the four states neighboring Indiana.

Still, Hoosiers are not likely to see strides on marijuana legalization.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb historically has said he would not take action on legalization while marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. In the Statehouse, legalization is an annual topic that never advances, even as Republicans have started in recent years to hop on board. A legislative committee on the topic last week did not come to any agreements on recommendations for the 2024 session. 

And unlike in Ohio and 20 other states, Hoosiers don’t have the means to put the question on the ballot themselves.

Here’s what you need to know: 

Where marijuana is legal near Indiana

Ohio’s law that voters approved Tuesday will take effect Dec. 7. Recreational marijuana is already legal in Michigan and Illinois. 

At Indiana’s southern border, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in March signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, although the state’s program won’t go into effect until 2025. 

Colorado and Washington in 2012 were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. 

When will marijuana be sold in Ohio:What to know about law passed Tuesday by Indiana's neighbor

Why Hoosiers can’t do what Ohio did 

In 23 states, citizens have the ability to get questions on the ballot through a petition process, either to change state law or the state constitution, or both. Indiana is not one of them.

Voters here would only come across ballot measures if the state legislature wants to amend the state constitution. And that can only happen if the legislature passes the same language two legislative sessions in a row. They haven’t tried this since the early 2010s, when Republicans tried to ban same-sex marriage.

As it stands now, the decision to change marijuana laws lies with the Republican-supermajority legislature.

What Gov. Eric Holcomb has said

Holcomb has long stood against legalization since marijuana is illegal on the federal level.

"If the law changed, we would look at all the positive or adverse impacts it would have," he said in 2019. "I'm not convinced other states have made a wise decision."

A spokesperson said his stance on that hasn’t changed.

In 2022, for the same reason, Holcomb said he wouldn’t honor President Joe Biden’s request to grant pardons for state possession charges.

In early 2023, he told reporters at a prayer breakfast that he’d be open to discussions about decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts.

"I do not believe that simple possession at certain limits should derail someone's life," he said.

Bills in the 2023 Indiana legislative session

State lawmakers propose marijuana-related bills each year during the legislative session, but none have made significant progress toward becoming law. 

A majority of the bills filed in the 2023 session were authored by Republicans, and some had bipartisan support. Some of the bills targeted decriminalization, medical use and regulation aspects of the marijuana industry, such as taxes and state committees.

One received a hearing, which was a first. The Republican author said at the time that it’s only gotten easier to find co-signers from his party, which he views as progress. But it faced strong opposition from police, prosecutors and the business community.

What state lawmakers have planned for 2024

At the start of November, the legislature’s interim study committee on commerce and economic development heard hours of testimony on legalizing marijuana from stakeholders both for and against it. 

However, state Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, did not take any recommendations from members of the committee on marijuana, stating the group would not meet “sufficient consensus.” The result is not a good sign for marijuana bills that could be proposed in 2024, despite Republicans being more and more open to the topic.

“We heard a lot of diverging testimony,” Baldwin said at the committee hearing. “We heard a lot of competing opinions. We have a lot of competing opinions in this room. If we want to be here until midnight, I don’t think we will gain consensus.”  

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