|Cannabis grows beautifully in Indiana — witness the above, from Greens Fork last August (unfortunately busted after a tipster called it in).
When Indiana state Senator Karen Tallian first floated the idea of introducing a bill to legalize marijuana, her Statehouse colleagues warned her it could kill her chances of being reelected. After all, conventional wisdom holds that pot legalization is a political third rail.
But Tallian (D-Portage), 60, a mother of three, thought there might be some public support for taking the crime out of cannabis, so she sent out an informal email survey to her constituents in northeast Indiana, reports Maureen Hayden at the CNHI Statehouse Bureau
Within 72 hours of sending the email, she got more than 2,000 responses. Almost all of them were supportive, and most of those said Indiana should treat marijuana like alcohol: Control its sale and tax it as a revenue source.
“I was floored by the response,” Tallian said. Encouraged by the support, she filed a bill last January to begin a serious conversation about the issue.
Her bill, which passed the Republican-controlled Statehouse
, directs a legislative summer study committee to take a look at Indiana’s marijuana laws and potential alternatives, including legalized medical marijuana for use in palliative care. The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for July 28.
Since the bill passed, Tallian said she is getting even more support, all the way from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats. She’s also gotten some negative feedback, but not many like the comments from someone who told her she should be “shamed” for even bringing up the idea.
“I’m kind of shocked and amazed,” Tallian said. “I haven’t been demonized.”
Among those who may testify at the committee hearing are representatives from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), whose members include former prosecutors, police officers and judges who say marijuana arrests waste resources, including jail space and prison beds, that could be better used fighting more serious crimes.
Tallian, a lawyer, also hopes the committee will hear from a Harvard economist who testified during the session that legalizing and taxing cannabis could raise millions of dollars in revenue for the state.
She said the idea for the bill came to her when she was sitting in court one day and watched three young defendants sentenced for possession of small amounts of marijuana. “I thought, ‘What a colossal waste of time and resources,’ ” Tallian said.
But predictably, there are some skeptics on the study committee, including Rep. Ralph Foley, an influential Republican from Martinsville, Ind., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
Foley, also a lawyer, claims that legalizing marijuana — even for medicinal use — would encourage drug abuse.
“I’ve seen too much trouble start with marijuana,” Foley claimed. “Unless I’m convinced strongly otherwise, I’m not inclined to support legalizing marijuana.”
Foley did the usual, sadly predictable thing uninformed or misinformed politicians do whenever the talk about pot — he pointed an accusing finger at California, criticizing what he called “pot shops” that have proliferated under that state’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1996.
“There was [sic] so many people with back ailments,” Foley cynically but un-gramatically said.