INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Democratic Party announced Monday it supports legalizing marijuana in the state.
The party cited statistics that say 80% of Hoosiers support legalizing marijuana in some form and more than 78% of residents believe simple possession of cannabis should not be an arrestable offense.
A news release from the Democratic Party said its officials expect the issue to be a “hallmark issue” for the 2022 state and midterm elections if the matter is not settled during the next legislative session.
"Hoosiers have seen the impact that recreational and medicinal cannabis use has made on the states around us, and not only are they contributing to neighboring states' economies, Indiana is now on the verge of losing out altogether," said Mike Schmuhl, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.
Party leaders also called on Gov. Eric Holcomb to rescind his opposition to marijuana and said waiting for the federal government to legalize the drug will set Indiana back in terms of economic and manufacturing opportunities.
Recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states, including Illinois and Michigan, plus Washington, D.C. It is also legal for medicinal use in Ohio.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears released a statement Monday in support of legalizing marijuana saying continuing to criminalize marijuana increases racial disparities in the criminal justice system and limits economic opportunities.
"Hoosiers across the state deserve a more fair and equitable justice system, and the legalization of marijuana is a significant step towards that reform," Mears said.
In 2019, Mears announced Marion County would no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases.
State Reps. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, and Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, also released statements in favor of legalization.
Errington said legalization of medical marijuana would help those with chronic pain and veterans who struggle with post traumatic stress disorder.
"By continuing to criminalize marijuana, we are driving suffering Hoosiers into the addictive world of synthetic drugs and feeding our state’s already devastating opioid crisis," Errington said. "It’s time to give Hoosiers a better option that will not only improve their daily lives, but the well-being of Indiana as a whole."
Summers called legalizing marijuana "the right thing to do" and said continuing to criminalize it "goes against our professed ideals of freedom, liberty and justice."
"Black and brown communities have suffered disproportionately from the War on Drugs causing generations of hurt and harm," Summer said. "If the Indiana General Assembly continues to say 'no' to common-sense, popular policies Indiana will continue to lose."