Two lawmakers say legal pot in Indiana is inevitable
Two Indiana lawmakers on opposite sides of the issue predict Indiana will legalize marijuana. It's just a matter of when.
"If we ever want to take the next step and legalize it, sell it like alcohol and regulate it, Colorado has just shown us we could have a lot of money," Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage).
Colorado, the first state to sell recreational marijuana (starting Jan. 1), raked in about $2 million in taxes during the first month of sales. The first $40 million it collects will go to school construction.
Recreational pot goes on sale this summer in Washington state, with other states considering changing their laws as well.
Tallian, who's introduced legislation decriminalizing marijuana the last few sessions without it going anywhere, says next year she'll try again.
"Maybe I'll try medical marijuana, maybe that will get them," she said. "Or maybe I just try the whole legalization program, I'm not sure what I'll do, but it's time for Indiana to do something."
Tallian says it's not just about the potential tax revenue, but the millions Indiana would save prosecuting users.
"We've been spending too much money trying to regulate marijuana for what, 50 years? And people still use it on a regular basis," she said. "It's clearly time to get rid of the penalties and stop messing up our kids lives. We need to get into the next century."
Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury) feels differently, but concedes, "I think it probably is inevitable, but that doesn't mean I'm going to step aside and let it happen."
Yoder said there are consequences to legalization.
"Drugs are not healthy for families and society and it's a mistake to go down the path to legalize it as a product," he said. "It's not all about revenue. We make enough money from gambling and other sin taxes and I'm very skeptical we need to look for new ways to gain revenue by legalizing drugs."
Amanda Friesen, an assistant professor of political science at IUPUI, sees a big battle ahead.
"When money conflicts with ideology, ideology always wins," Friesen said. "If were all about money, we'd have more legalized gambling across the state or legalized prostitution."
She predicts that as other "more liberal or progressive states legalize it (for recreational use) there will be a tipping point and Congress will look at this and say we need to reclassify marijuana. If wouldn't surprise me if federal law changed before Indiana decided to (legalize marijuana.)
Yoder said he expected Indiana to legalize marijuana within 10 years. Tallian said she'll work to see that it happens well before then.