The Hoosier state saw its regular legislative session begin on January 4. About a week before, several bills became pre-filed in preparation for the session. Several bills pre-filed involve cannabis legalization, a well contested topic in Indiana. Recently, Indiana Democrats announced they would make a huge push towards cannabis legalization and regulation. These pre-filed bills show that push is making its way to the Indiana general assembly.
The first bill pre-filed was HB 1049 from Representative Sue Errington, D. This bill looks to create an infrastructure system for cannabis regulation. It looks to create the Cannabis Compliance Commission and a separate cannabis advisory committee.
Should cannabis legalize, whether federally or state-wide, Indiana will have a regulation framework in place. The Commission will oversee the market, from growth, distribution, sales, licenses, and taxes. The Commission would also oversee and regulate the hemp market within the state, which became legal in 2019 when Indiana lawmakers adopted the same definition of hemp as stated in the 2018 Farm Bill.
HB 1049 is not exactly what Democrats said they would be pushing for, however. There are no legalization or decriminalization efforts in the bill. But Representative Errington told local news reporters there’s a good reason for that. “I felt maybe we are trying to bite off too big a chunk at once,” she said about legalization and decriminalization along with infrastructure.
With no legalization wording in the bill, there’s a larger chance HB 1049 could receive bipartisan support. Additionally, Governor Eric Holcomb, R, said he would be more in favor of supporting a structural bill over generalized legalization. The governor, along with top Republican lawmakers in Indiana, are still concerned about cannabis and legalization because cannabis remains a Schedule I drug federally. If the scheduling of cannabis comes around, then they would be more inclined to look towards legalization.
With structural legislation present in the Indiana general assembly, other bills surrounding cannabis are surfacing. HB 1070, from Representative Heath VanNatter, R, looks to decriminalize the possession of cannabis up to two ounces. Then, possession of two to four ounces would only receive a class B misdemeanor, with no threat of jail time.
This presents a unique situation for the Hoosier state. Last year, Republican lawmakers filed a bill to replace prosecutors and District Attorneys who aren’t following the law with compliant ones. This started because a Marion County prosecutor announced he and his team wouldn’t prosecute low-level cannabis possession cases. His staff was needed on more important cases.
So lawmakers filled SB 200 to fight back. It didn’t make it out of a committee hearing, but lawmakers are still adamant the laws are followed. It’s unclear how fellow lawmakers and Governor Holcomb will take to HB 1070 and if it has a chance at passing this legislative session.
The push for cannabis legalization will be a slow one in Indiana with a Republican supermajority in the general assembly. However, lawmakers in favor of cannabis are making a push. More than 80 percent of Hoosiers want some form of legalization present in the state, especially with both Illinois and Michigan offering recreational cannabis and Ohio with medical cannabis. There seems to be a chance legalization could come to Indiana, but it remains unknown. As more information becomes available, we will update you with the latest.
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