Indiana lawmakers will have their pick of cannabis reform bills to take up during the 2022 session, with newly pre-filed legislation covering everything from legalizing possession to initial steps for setting up the regulatory infrastructure for a marijuana market
Rep. Sue Errington (D) is sponsoring that infrastructure legislation—a proposal that the state’s anti-legalization governor recently signaled he could support.
The bill would not immediately legalize marijuana for adult use, but it would create a new Cannabis Compliance Commission and a separate advisory committee to “regulate the growth, processing, distribution, and sale of legal cannabis in Indiana,” including the state’s existing hemp and CBD markets.
The idea is to get the pieces in place to regulate commercial marijuana production and sales if legalization is eventually enacted.
Members would be responsible for setting rules and issuing licenses for any legal cannabis businesses, and would also be authorized to issue cannabis research licenses to eligible academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies and agricultural businesses.
Errington has previously sponsored cannabis legislation, including broader legalization bills. She recently told WTHR-TV that she felt those efforts were “trying to bite off too big a chunk at once,” so she hopes this infrastructure-centered reform will be a passable first step.
Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) isn’t supportive of legalization, but he did recently say that he’s on board with having lawmakers pass legislation to get the state ready for legal marijuana if federal prohibition is lifted.
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Less clear is how the governor would approach a separate bill introduced by Rep. Heath VanNatter (R), which would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to two ounces of cannabis. While it wouldn’t permit marijuana retailers, the legislation is effectively non-commercial legalization of small amounts. It would also make it so that possession of between two and four ounces of cannabis would be downgraded to a class B misdemeanor.
Also on the legislature’s docket is a bill from Rep. Sean Eberhart (R) that would create a new definition for smokable hemp called “craft hemp flower” and makes other changes to the state’s hemp laws, including repealing a law requiring that hemp flower only be sold to licensed Indiana processors.
It would also clarify that a food is not considered “adulterated” because it contains low-THC hemp extract.
Meanwhile, another Republican Indiana lawmaker who serves in House leadership has announced she’ll be introducing a bill to legalize marijuana for both recreational and medical use in the upcoming legislative session.
Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R), who has worked to raise awareness about substance misuse since her sons struggled with addiction, says she recognizes the obstacles of enacting cannabis reform in the conservative legislature. But she’s hoping that leadership will at least allow a committee hearing on her forthcoming proposal.
The measure, which has not yet been pre-filed, would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older and set up a regulated system of sales, mirroring neighboring Michigan’s marijuana law. It would also establish a medical cannabis program in the state.
A statewide 2018 poll that found that about 80 percent of Indianans favor legalizing cannabis for either medical or recreational purposes, and 78 percent agreed that simple possession should be decriminalized.
The Indiana Democratic party, meanwhile, is mounting a push for marijuana legalization and calling on state lawmakers to enact the reform.
If the GOP-controlled legislature fails to pass a legalization bill during the 2022 session, the party organization said Democrats are prepared to campaign on the issue, leveraging the popularity of ending prohibition among Indiana voters.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.