Medical marijuana and recreational weed are back in the news in the U.S.
Michigan voters this month approved the recreational use of marijuana in their state for adults 21 and older, beginning in early December. (They OK’d medical marijuana in 2008.)
In California, the first state that legalized weed for medical use back in 1996, a new law makes it easier to have past marijuana convictions tossed out, or sentences reduced. And let’s not forget Canada — oh Canada — which legalized the sale of marijuana on Oct. 17.
But how does this issue impact Indiana? We decided to take a closer look.
No. Possession of marijuana, aka cannabis, is illegal in Indiana.
Possession of up to 30 grams, including for personal use, is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
If a person is caught possessing more than 30 grams, or has a prior marijuana conviction (regardless of the amount), then the offense is a class D felony, punishable by up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Penalties for the manufacture and distribution of marijuana in Indiana (i.e. drug trafficking) are even higher.
It is also illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in Indiana.
If an officer in Indiana suspects a motorist is under impairment by a substance other than alcohol, the driver may be asked to take a blood test. If a driver refuses, the officer can hold him or her to allow enough time to secure a search warrant to obtain a blood sample for testing — even against the motorist’s will. A positive result showing the presence of marijuana will result in the person being summoned to court.
No. There have been past legislative efforts to allow medical marijuana in Indiana, but all of those initiatives have failed.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, has tried for years to legalize marijuana including bills to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the bills never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, the same category as heroin and LSD, and it’s considered to be highly addictive and to have no medical value. Thus, doctors may not “prescribe” cannabis for medical use under federal law.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in January he would revoke a previous policy called the Cole Memorandum, which said the federal government would not enforce marijuana prohibition on states that had legalized the drug. Sessions’ recent dismissal from the Trump administration and gains by progressive Democrats in the midterm elections have been cheered by marijuana proponents.
More than 100 medical marijuana advocates, joined by veterans, patients and a handful of Indiana lawmakers, attended a town hall hosted by Indiana NORML at the Indiana State Library in August to praise the benefits of medical cannabis.
Some people at the rally spoke to how the substance had helped them overcome pain from chronic diseases and surgeries. Others said medical marijuana is a healthier alternative than opioids.
Veterans from the American Legion and Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis said veterans often overuse opioids when suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical marijuana could be “another tool in the toolbox,” said American Legion member Kent Morgan.
• A WTHR/HPI Indiana Poll in 2016 found 73 percent surveyed supported medical marijuana. Hoosiers older than 65 favored legalization by 57 percent to 41 percent.
• The American Legion in October 2017 surveyed veterans and caregivers and found 92 percent supported more research into medicinal uses for cannabis for mental and physical conditions and 82 percent support legalizing medical marijuana.
• The Old National Bank/Ball State University 2018 Hoosier Survey in November 2018 found 42 percent of Hoosiers said marijuana should be legal only for medicinal use, while 39 percent said marijuana should be legal for personal use. If marijuana remains illegal, only 16 percent said people should go to jail for possessing small amounts.
• And a Gallup poll conducted in October 2018 also revealed 66 percent of Americans, the highest figure on record, support legalizing marijuana.
‘Politicians listen to veterans’: Marine veteran leads charge for medical marijuana
At least two candidates in prominent Indiana races in the midterm election supported the legalization of Indiana medical marijuana.
Libertarian Lucy Brenton, who was running for the open U.S. Senate seat from Indiana, said during the campaign that medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized in Indiana and that states should demand that the federal government “stop harassing peaceful citizens in legal states.”