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Indiana trails neighboring states in move to legalize marijuana

As Ohio moves to further expand medical marijuana programs, Indiana is looking increasingly isolated when it comes to weed legalization.
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INDIANAPOLIS — With Illinois and Michigan legalizing marijuana for recreational use in 2020, Ohio passing some medical marijuana measures, and Kentucky's governor saying he's open to medical marijuana legalization, Indiana may soon find itself alone if marijuana initiatives being pushed through the Statehouse by Democrats during the next legislative session don’t pan out.

Where our neighboring states are signing off on marijuana legalization in some capacity, legalizing weed for certain medical use or making recreational weed legal for adults, that’s not the case in Indiana yet. 

A 2016 poll conducted by WTHR and Howey Politics Indiana showed 73 percent of Hoosiers supported legalizing medical marijuana. That support cut across party lines, with about 60 percent of Republican respondents and more than 80 percent of Democrats voicing approval for medical cannabis.

Two years later, that number jumped to 81 percent, according to a statewide poll by Ball State University. Forty-two percent of Hoosiers polled said marijuana should be legal for medical use only and an additional 39 percent said it should be legal for all personal use, including medical.

In that same 2018 poll, a vast majority of Hoosiers – 78 percent – said there should be no jail time for individuals who possess small amounts of marijuana. Only 16 percent of Hoosiers thought marijuana use should remain illegal.

Matthew Schweich is a deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and said a type of tension between states who have legalized marijuana to some capacity and states that have not is one that has played out before in the northeast.

By the time New York passed legislation legalizing recreational cannabis earlier this year, it was already legal in three nearby states.

RELATED: Group promotes tax benefit of legalizing pot in Indiana

“Regional pressure has occurred many times for the cannabis legalization movement,” he said. “And when it comes to legalization, there's a very strong reason for states to look to their neighbors because people are simply going to drive across state lines, purchase cannabis and then come back home. Indiana is going to be surrounded on three sides with recreational cannabis states."

In the Republican legislature, though, the chances of legalized marijuana are a longshot. 

The Marijuana Policy Project targets cannabis legalization measures across the country and offers support in select states.

Indiana is not on their radar for this upcoming legislative session.

“Indiana doesn’t even have a comprehensive medical yet," he said. "I think that the medical policy that's currently in place is something that we don't really even consider to be a medical cannabis law, because it's so restrictive and so limited."

As state Democrats say they'll push for weed reform this legislative session, and the governor leaves the fight up to the federal government, here’s a look inside what’s happening – or already happened - in other statehouses regarding cannabis across the Midwest.

Michigan 

Our northern neighbor was the first Midwestern state to decriminalize recreational marijuana.  

Under Michigan law, marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. An adult may possess up to 2.5 ounces.

Only adults over age 21 may use cannabis.

Michigan law also requires anyone using cannabis to do so in the privacy of their own property. Adults can grow 12 marijuana plants for their own personal use at their residence, but they cannot be seen from a public place.

Adults may transfer up to 2 1/2 ounces of cannabis to another adult, but only as a gift.

RELATED: Should Indiana legalize marijuana? Holcomb says federal government should decide first

Illinois

Recreational use was legalized in 2020. Possession of over 30 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor for first-time offenders.

Citizens may grow up to five marijuana plants for medical use.

Illinois also adopted a regulatory system for cultivating and selling cannabis in the state. Over 40 medical conditions qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions.

Illinois has sold more than $1 billion in marijuana so far in 2021.

Ohio 

Ohio implemented a medical marijuana program in 2016. The state also removed jail time for small amounts of marijuana, or up to 200 grams.

In December, the Ohio Senate approved a bill to expand medical marijuana use in the state. According to WBNS, a 13News sister station in Columbus, the measure would allow more Ohio dispensaries to sell medical marijuana, cultivators to grow more of it, and more conditions of use.

The list of conditions qualifying for treatment with marijuana would expand to include terminal illness, Autism spectrum disorder, chronic muscle spasms and opioid use disorder. And a physician could recommend marijuana to treat any medical condition if the physician concludes the patient would “reasonably be expected” to find relief or benefit from it.

The measure outlines two levels of licensed cultivators — one that could seek to cultivate up to 75,000 square feet, the other up to 20,000 square feet.

In August, officials certified a petition for circulation that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for adults if approved in November 2022 by the voters of Ohio. 

The campaign, is allowed to collect 133,000 signatures it needs from voters before the legislative session begins next year. 

The petition would allow adults to possess and purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants per individual at home.

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Cannabis contains two main compound, THC and CBD.

Kentucky 

Whether Kentucky counts as a Midwestern state is a fight we'll leave up to Reddit. 

Regardless, we share a border. In Kentucky, it is illegal to possess, use, purchase, sell or cultivate marijuana for any reason.

But on Feb. 20, 2020 the Kentucky House of Representatives voted 65-30 to pass HB 136, which would have legalized medical marijuana in the state. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted those plans.

In late November, a Kentucky lawmaker pre-filed bills that would legalize and decriminalize some amounts of marijuana in the state.

Kentucky’s next legislative session begins Jan. 4.

Indiana 

During the 2021 legislative session, several cannabis bills were introduced. Just one of them received a hearing before their legislative deadlines.

Indiana remains one of 14 states with no medical cannabis law, aside from Senate Enrolled Act 52, which allowed low-THC CBD derived from industrial hemp to be sold at no more than 0.3 THC.

Indiana is one of 14 states with no medical marijuana law, and one of 19 that which puts people in jail for simple marijuana possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

The first time you are convicted of possessing any amount of marijuana, you could face 180 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000. Prior offenses and accusations of possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana can mean a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 

RELATED: Marijuana advocates cautiously optimistic about cannabis infrastructure bill

More than 30 grams of weed and a past offense can lead to six months to 2 1/2 years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Fines for growing weed in Indiana are steeper. 

The sale, cultivation and manufacture of cannabis is a crime. 30 grams or less is one year in jail and $5,000 in fines. If the charge is more than 10 pounds, that carries a potential 1- to 6-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

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