In an unexpectedly innovative and forward-looking move, Indiana Gov. Holcomb favors state lawmakers beginning the process of establishing a licensing structure for legal cannabis businesses. The governor is against marijuana legalization, but if the federal prohibition is repealed, the state could then, in effect, “flip the switch” to minimize potential delays.
No other state has considered such a process. Lawmakers would preemptively hash out rules on licensing, taxes, social equity, etc., without a clear timeline for implementation that hinges entirely on possible future action by Congress.
Indiana democrats recently attempted a push for marijuana legalization and called on state lawmakers to enact the reform. Rep. Sue Errington said she is working on a bill that fits the governor’s description. Gov. Holcomb emphasized that it’s not his top priority and, in deference to the federal government, refuses to enact reform until a national policy change comes.
“We’re talking about something that is illegal, and it’s just at the core of me — it’s to uphold and defend the laws of the state and nation,” Holcomb said. “I don’t get to pick and choose. Even if I agreed with it, I couldn’t get myself just to look the other way, as a lot of states have. But just because a lot of other states have doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.”
The governor is in favor of additional cannabis studies. He encourages Indiana University and Purdue University to lead the research along with the Food and Drug Administration and “get real data.”
Indiana is surrounded by states that have legalized marijuana.
Neighboring Michigan ended a medical marijuana licensing ban for people with previous cannabis-related convictions.
Illinois legalized cannabis for adult use and is experiencing a growing trend in bring-your-own-cannabis-designated lounges.
Ohio, east of Indiana, has a medical marijuana program and is one of the few states considering legalizing adult-use cannabis.
Retail cannabis businesses have brought in more than $1 billion in legal sales of adult-use cannabis in 2021.
A 2018 poll found that about 80 percent of Indianans favor legalizing cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, and 78 percent agreed that the state should decriminalize simple possession.
Democrats are prepared to campaign for a cannabis legalization bill if the Republican-controlled legislature fails to pass the bill during the 2022 session. The decision can come down to the popularity of ending prohibition among Indiana voters who want to sit back and spark some rolling papers.