Indiana’s top Dem: Hoosier state will ‘lose out’ if marijuana not legalized


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As Indiana House and Senate leaders convene for Organizational Day for the 2022 session on Tuesday, state Democrats are hoping legalizing marijuana is an issue at the forefront of the conversation.

“The General Assembly is organizing today for the session early next year, and we want them to take a look at this issue. We should talk about this issue. We should debate it,” said Mike Schmuhl, the Indiana Democratic Party Chairman.

On Monday, the Indiana Democratic Party announced it will call for the legalization of recreational marijuana during the 2022 legislative session.

“This week we came out strong in support of legalization of marijuana in the Hoosier state. We wanted to kind of put a stake in the ground and say, ‘We’re the party that is fully in support of this,'” said Schmuhl.

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in 18 states and the District of Columbia, including Michigan and Illinois. Schmuhl said he believes if Indiana is “on an island by itself in the middle of the Midwest,” the Hoosier state “could lose out for a number of reasons.”

The main reason being economically, since a large percentage of Hoosiers have been reportedly traveling across state lines to purchase marijuana where it’s legal.

“I also think we’re losing out at something that would create a lot of jobs and start a lot of businesses in Indiana and that’s something that we all want,” said Schmuhl.

Other items Schmuhl said are “at stake” include farmers having a “literal cash crop to grow,” medical use, helping with the opioid crisis and equity.

“I think that there’s a lot of folks who have a simple possession charge, they live in a rural area and live in an urban area, doesn’t really matter, and it kind of sets their life on a particular course,” said Schmuhl. “At the end of the day, the vast majority of Hoosiers do not think that marijuana possession should be a crime.”

On Monday, Schmuhl added that if the Indiana Republican Party does not join Democrats in the legalization effort, Democrats will make it a major issue in the 2022 mid-term elections. On Tuesday, he explained by that he meant traveling around the state and talking with voters.

“Next year when elections are up, people are on the ballot, people are running for office and we’re going to remind folks that we’re the party that is taking the lead on this issue,” said Schmuhl. We’re going to go directly to people and talk with them about the benefits that it could have here in Indiana and so we’re going to talk about it.”

Schmuhl said the Democrats welcome the Republican party to join them on that effort. He said currently the Indiana Democratic Party is not working with any marijuana advocacy groups to help them lobby for this, however, he said it’s something they are looking at for the future.

Jake Oakman, the Director of the Indiana Republican Party’s Strategic Communications, said “the Indiana GOP doesn’t have any comment on the Democrat legislative agenda right now.”

Oakman added when that changes, he will let WANE 15 know. WANE 15 also reached out to Governor Eric Holcomb’s office and has not heard back.

The legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 11, 2022.

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