A leading Republican lawmaker in Indiana is set to introduce a marijuana legalization bill in the forthcoming legislative session.
In making her announcement, Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R) acknowledged the challenge of getting such a measure passed in Indiana’s GOP-controlled legislature, but urged House and Senate leaders to at least give the proposal a committee hearing.
Ziemke’s bill would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and establish a recreational cannabis market along similar lines to neighboring Michigan’s, as well as creating a medical marijuana program in the state.
The text of the bill has not yet been unveiled, but Ziemke indicated to the Indianapolis Business Journal that the measure would establish a state agency to regulate the market, issue marijuana business licenses and determine a tax rate for cannabis sales. She also said these revenues would go towards funding public health initiatives.
“We are so good at so much. But when it comes to public health, we are horrible,” she said. “So if that would generate monies that could go more into public health for our state, that’s how I envisioned it for both public health and mental health and addiction.”
Motivated by discussions with her son, who has struggled for eight years with heroin addiction, Ziemke believes a legal cannabis market in Indianapolis would weaken the state’s illicit drug market and help reduce people’s exposure to hard drugs.
“So much of it also comes from when I called my son and I said, you know, ‘what do you think about me authoring this cannabis bill?’ And he said, ‘You should do it.’ He said, ‘because you know those folks will go to a dealer to get pot and could end up leaving one day with meth,’” Ziemke said. “I want a safe product that’s out there that’s controlled.”
Ziemke, who sits as assistant majority caucus chair, further stated that Indiana is in danger of falling behind its neighbors on the issue of marijuana reform, with Illinois now in its second year of a legal recreational cannabis market.
The bill will get its first hearing in front of the House Public Policy Committee, which up till now has not approved any cannabis reform bill.
Indiana has some of the country’s harshest marijuana laws, with only CBD oil containing less than 0.3 percent THC permitted. Possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
While statewide polling on marijuana legalization in Indiana shows 80 percent of residents favor legalizing cannabis for either recreational or medical purposes, the legislature remains impassive to such proposals. So much so that leading Democratic lawmakers banded together late last year to urge the GOP to stop roadblocking marijuana reform efforts.
Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is also against legalization, though he recently indicated he would like to set up marijuana regulatory infrastructure should federal prohibition of cannabis come to an end.