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

Gov. Eric Holcomb repeated the same thing he has said for years, that he needs to see more research on medicinal use of marijuana.

INDIANAPOLIS — As bipartisan support grows at the Indiana Statehouse to legalize marijuana, Governor Eric Holcomb said he can’t support it until the federal government legalizes it first.

“I mean, I took an oath,” Holcomb told 13News. “So lets just say I agreed with it, I (also) agreed to uphold the law – state and federal.”

Despite marijuana’s illegal status at the federal level, 16 states now allow it for medical use. It is fully legal in 18 states including Michigan, where 13 Investigates found plenty of Hoosiers crossing the border last year to buy.

Of the 26 cars we saw in the parking lot of a dispensary a few miles north of the Indiana border in February 2020, 19 had Indiana license plates.

Credit: WTHR
Customers lineup early to buy marijuana at the ReLEAF Center in Niles, Michigan.

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A 2018 Old National Bank/Ball State University survey found eight in ten Hoosiers believed marijuana should be legalized in some way – either recreationally or for medical use.

Supporters also point to the economic boon marijuana sales have generated for state and local governments.

This year, the Marijuana Policy Project reported states that had legalized marijuana had made almost $7.9 billion in tax revenue.

“I suspect there are some medicinal uses,” Holcomb told 13News.

But he said he wants to see the research and has asked both Indiana University and Purdue University to participate.

“(I’m) happy to participate in learning more scientifically, medically, about potential medicinal uses and their positive effects,” said Holcomb repeating a statement he has made for years. “Now, it needs to be legal and that’s going to have to start on the federal front first.”

In 2019, Holcomb admitted he had smoked marijuana in college.

What about decriminalizing marijuana?

Some lawmakers say marijuana should at least be decriminalized. That means, anyone caught with it could face a ticket and be fined rather than sentenced to jail time.

Holcomb said he’s open to that discussion.

“I don’t think having possession of small amounts should ruin your life,” he said, but questioned what a small amount should be.

RELATED: Indiana attorney general candidate and Marion County prosecutor discuss legalizing marijuana

“That’s why we meet every January to have these discussions,” he said. “But for folks who are pushing and selling that and a lot of other drugs ... this is not the idea that I want to legalize that and I don’t think there’s an appetite for that in the legislature.”   

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