INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio residents have voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing marijuana, defying their Republican lawmakers who stood against the measure and becoming the 24th state in the union to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.
For the third time, Indiana stands on the outside looking in with every bordering state — besides Kentucky — leaping in to the lucrative cannabis business. A business that has injected billions of dollars to Michigan’s economy, including collecting what will likely amount to millions from Hoosiers crossing the border.
But despite research showing 85% of Hoosiers support the legalization of marijuana in one form or another, Indiana continues to be left behind. Why?
What is standing in the way of Indiana legalizing marijuana?
For one thing, Indiana Republicans continue to stand in the way of legalization. Despite Hoosier voters on both sides of the aisle supporting legalization, the Republican supermajority that controls the state continues to stand against the measure.
Governor Eric Holcomb has historically been against legalizing marijuana, and wouldn’t pardon Hoosiers charged with “simple possession” after President Joe Biden announced he was pardoning thousands of Americans who were arrested for being caught with small amounts of weed.
Holcomb has claimed he can’t support legalizing marijuana until the federal law is changed. Yet many have criticized this reasoning since Holcomb has been an advocate for states’ rights in the past such as arguing that Indiana should set its own abortion laws and not be governed by federal laws.
But it’s not just Holcomb, Indiana Republicans who control both the State Senate and the House of Representatives continue to shoot down any attempts at legalization. Indiana Republicans have not legalized medical marijuana and just last year let a bill die that sought to decriminalize marijuana.
State Sen. Scott Baldwin, a Republican who chairs the Commerce and Economic Development Committee, just recently said the committee has no current draft recommendations for legalizing cannabis.
Hoosiers can’t vote on the matter themselves
Hoosiers aren’t alone, however, in wanting the legalization of marijuana while their Republican lawmakers stand against it. In Ohio, Republican lawmakers wouldn’t pass legislation to legalize marijuana. The only reason Ohio is joining Michigan and Illinois in legalized recreational use of cannabis is because Ohio voters circumvented their elected leaders and voted for the measure themselves.
On Tuesday, more than 2 million in the Buckeye state struck a blow to their GOP lawmakers by voting yes on the passage of Issue 2.
But Ohio is one of 19 states that allow a direct initiative process — letting Ohio residents put measures on their ballots to vote on for themselves. Indiana, however, does not allow this.
In Indiana, the lawmakers decide what is best for their constituents and the only time Hoosiers can vote for a ballot measure during an election is when the Indiana General Assembly decides to allow it.
It happens, but it’s rare. It happened in 1988, when Hoosiers were granted the right to vote on allowing a state lottery. It happened in 2008, when Hoosiers voted on putting property tax caps into the Constitution.
Where does this leave Indiana?
State Rep. Bob Morris recently said that yet another bill trying to legalize marijuana will be introduced to the House of Representatives next season. Morris said the committee is looking into the prospect of legalizing marijuana but already expressed “some very alarming concerns.”
This isn’t the first time legalization has been attempted, with Indiana Democrats pushing for it in the past. All previous attempts have not been supported by Indiana Republicans, however, despite Hoosier’s overwhelming support for the measure.
If Hoosiers wish to join Michigan, Illinois and now Ohio and become the 25th state to legalize marijuana it would mean changing a lot of minds in the supermajority that controls the state. With the Indiana governor seat up for election in 2024, it could become a contested point in who wins and who loses if Hoosiers continue to raise their voice to the lawmakers who so far have continued to ignore their cries of supporting legalization.
But unless the General Assembly decides to put the matter on a ballot, Hoosiers might not have much of a say in the matter outside of who they vote for.