Where Indiana’s candidates for governor stand on marijuana legalization

Posted Nov 20, 2023 indystar

Ohio voters’ decision to legalize recreational marijuana has once again surfaced the topic in Indiana, and it could be an issue in Hoosiers’ election of a new governor in 2024.

Legalization is regularly proposed in the Indiana legislature but has never advanced, even as Republicans start to hop on board. Gov. Eric Holcomb has maintained that he opposes legalization because of marijuana’s federal designation as a Schedule 1 drug.

But Indiana will elect a replacement for Holcomb in a year. A new governor could change the tone at the Statehouse on marijuana or maintain the status quo. IndyStar asked each of the many candidates what their positions are, and what they’d consider supporting as governor.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun declined to comment, but in the past has said he recognizes the benefits of medical marijuana while recreational legalization is a question for future generations. Jamie Reitenour did not respond. Here’s what the other candidates said:

Republican Brad Chambers: Undecided

Brad Chambers, the former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, said he hasn’t spent too much time on the issue but wouldn’t close the door on it.

“As we hear more about the potential of reclassification at the federal level, I think we should evaluate the potential positive and negative impacts, learn from what other states have experienced, and determine the best path forward for a healthy and successful Indiana,” he said.

Republican Suzanne Crouch: Opposed

“My family’s history of battling addiction and law enforcement’s stand against marijuana lead me to believe now is not the time for legalization,” Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said.

Republican Eric Doden: Opposed

“My campaign is about making Indiana’s communities safer and stronger and I don’t believe legalizing drugs is a way to achieve that goal,” said Eric Doden, a Fort Wayne businessman.

Republican Curtis Hill: Opposed

Curtis Hill, a former Indiana attorney general, said his background as a prosecutor informs his position.

“As someone who has spent a lifetime defending justice and prosecuting criminals, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact drugs are having on our communities,” he said. “Marijuana use has destroyed many lives, and states that have legalized marijuana have seen an increase in black market products fueled by Mexican cartels. As governor, I will oppose the decriminalization of marijuana and protect our communities from the influx of marijuana, fentanyl and other federally prohibited controlled substances. As it stands, there is no FDA-approved scientific evidence that marijuana or recreational drug use has any positive medicinal benefits. The decriminalization of marijuana undermines the efforts to protect public health and safety, as it sends a message that unregulated drug use is acceptable without considering its potential risks and consequences.”

Democrat Jennifer McCormick: In favor

“It is time Indiana listened to the majority of Hoosiers and developed a legal, well-regulated cannabis market,” said Jennifer McCormick, the former state schools superintendent. “This opportunity would boost our economy by welcoming an industry proven to add millions of dollars to the state budget ― just as 37 other states have demonstrated. Legalizing medical marijuana would be the first step and carries the benefit of providing doctors one more tool in treating suffering patients. Indiana must take this even further by passing legislation decriminalizing marijuana to support impacted Hoosiers and the criminal justice system.”

Libertarian Donald Rainwater: In favor

Donald Rainwater said he thinks the prohibition on marijuana in Indiana contributes to violent crime, the rise of fentanyl-laced cannabis and the incarceration of too many nonviolent people.

“Too many taxpayer dollars are being spent on Indiana’s failed war on cannabis,” he said. “Whether you believe cannabis is helpful or harmful, I believe that every Hoosier citizen should be afforded the same rights to make the decision concerning cannabis use for themselves, the same as they can for alcohol and tobacco. The time for our state’s government to acknowledge the right of its citizens to decide for themselves is now. Indiana should legalize and decriminalize all forms of cannabis and commute and expunge the sentences of those Hoosiers who have been convicted of non-violent cannabis-related offenses.”

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