Pressure is mounting on Statehouse Republicans in Indiana to embrace some kind of marijuana reform after leading Democratic lawmakers in the state urged the GOP to stop roadblocking legislative effort

Ahead of the next legislative session in January, leading Democratic lawmakers in Indiana joined together to urge Statehouse Republicans to stop thwarting efforts at some kind of cannabis reform in the state.

Indiana is one of a handful of states that’s yet to embrace marijuana legalization, with medical and recreational uses remaining illegal.

Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl said continued inaction and opposition by Republicans makes no “economic common sense,” since the state would be left behind should the federal government decide to decriminalize the plant.

“Hoosiers have seen the impact that recreational and medicinal cannabis use has made on the states around us and not only are they contributing to neighboring states’ economies, Indiana is now on the verge of losing out altogether,” Schmuhl said.

However, Republican House Speaker Todd Huston insists the profit motive should not determine whether or not Indiana should pursue the reform.

“I think when you make the argument about having that substantial a public policy change just because you’re trying to chase dollars makes no sense to me, so I’m in the same place I’ve been,” Huston said.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Messmer was more contrite in pointing out that the plant’s federally illegal status should give cause for concern, especially when it comes to cannabis industry banking.

“It’s an issue that does poll well with the public but there’s still conflicting federal statutes that make it a little difficult to bring forward,” Messmer said.

Last year, the 2020 Democratic candidates for governor came out in support of reforming Indiana’s marijuana laws to keep in step with the rest of the country, but it wasn’t a prominent issue in their ultimately unsuccessful campaigns.

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), for his part, has been consistent in his opposition to any legalization efforts so long as the federal government maintains its classification of the plant. Holcomb’s spokesperson said in response to calls for marijuana legalization this week that “at this point nothing has changed.”

Democratic Rep. Vanessa Summers, meanwhile, maintains that cannabis criminalization in the state is largely responsible for persisting racial disparities in arrest rates.

“Legalizing marijuana is not only the popular thing to do — it is the right thing to do,” Summers said. “Continued criminalization hurts us all and goes against our professed ideals of freedom, liberty and justice.”

While Democrats and Republicans remain at loggerheads over marijuana reform in Indiana, legalization continues apace across the country and is increasingly becoming a bipartisan issue.

The most recent Gallup survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization, with a slight majority of Republicans also in favor of the move.

A 2018 poll by Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs revealed 80 percent of Indianans support legalizing cannabis for medical uses, with 40 percent in favor of legalization for recreational purposes. Only 16 percent of respondents supported Indiana’s total prohibition on the plant.

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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