Editorial: Clear path needed on marijuana issue

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(Jeffersonville) News and Tribune

Editorial: Clear path needed on marijuana issue

The grass is greener in many of our neighboring states, but Indiana continues to stall when it comes to making progress on the issue.

On Nov. 7, Ohio voters chose to make recreational marijuana use legal in the state. Ohio is the 24th state to pass the grass for recreational use, joining Hoosier neighbors Illinois and Michigan. Earlier this year, Kentucky legalized medical marijuana.

Indiana is an outlier, even in the Midwest, when it comes to cannabis. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Indiana is one of just 12 states without a medical marijuana law and one of 19 that still imposes jail time for simple possession of cannabis.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he won’t act on the matter until the federal government legalizes pot. Our state legislature has failed to move the issue forward. Yet another legislative committee provided no recommendations on marijuana legalization during a meeting earlier this month. Unlike Ohio, Hoosier voters are limited in deciding on the issue since Indiana is one of 27 states where questions such as marijuana legalization can’t appear on the ballot without the will of the state legislature.

Given that our state lawmakers have largely failed to come up with even basic guidance on pot legalization or medical marijuana, it’s hard to imagine that Hoosiers will be seeing the issue on a ballot anytime soon.

But marijuana-related products such as CBD, Delta-8 and Delta-9 are legal in Indiana.

Indiana doesn’t need the tax revenue from marijuana like Illinois and other states, yet having the additional revenue from marijuana couldn’t hurt. Kentucky lost millions of dollars by refusing to legalize gambling. Instead, Kentuckians drove to places like Southern Indiana to spend their money at casinos. In 2023, Hoosiers are driving to Michigan and Illinois to spend money on a drug that’s been shown to have few adverse effects on users and has been proved to have medicinal value.

Legalizing marijuana would also free up law enforcement, from street patrols to eradication efforts, to focus on serious crimes and problems. It could alleviate some of the strain on our courts, which are backed up enough due to delays caused by the pandemic.

The majority of Hoosiers are in favor of it. A 2022 Ball State University survey found that 85% of the 600 adults polled supported legalization of marijuana in some form. For recreational use, 56% were in favor of legalization.

But there are other sides to the issue, such as how employers would handle marijuana use for workers if it’s legalized.

Lawmakers need to seek reliable input from experts and the Hoosiers they represent, and move forward on a firm path to deciding the issue. Seating another committee won’t make a difference unless there’s a strong will to resolve the matter, either for or against pot legalization.