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Indiana lawmakers hear testimony on marijuana decriminalization bill

indiana marijuana bill
Posted at 6:56 PM, Feb 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 07:10:19-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill moving through the Indiana statehouse focuses on two ounces of marijuana.

Several lawmakers say Wednesday's testimony on House Bill 1297is the first time a bill of this nature has gotten a hearing.

The bill would allow Hoosiers to posses up to two ounces of marijuana without any criminal punishment

"It's time that Indiana joins all of its neighboring states. Every state around us has some form of legalization — Ohio and Kentucky have medical and Illinois and Michigan have recreational," Republican RepresentativeHeath VanNattersaid.

VanNatter says he was opposed to marijuana legalization when he got elected but has seen public opinion shift.

Last year, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order allowing Kentuckians with certain medical conditions to access medical marijuana. There are multiple conditions.

Several CBD companies spoke in favor of the bill, saying the current prohibition is negatively impacting farmers.

"This criminalization has severely restricted the market for our hemp farmers and small businesses and has resulted in confusing laws. For an example, currently farmers are prohibited from selling hemp flower outside of state lines and can only sell it to a licensed process in the state," Justin Swanson, Midwest Hemp Council representative, said.

Others, like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana State Police and Prosecuting Attorneys Council spoke in opposition.

The Chamber is worried that decriminalization could hurt the workforce by creating confusion surrounding drug testing policies.

"The General Assembly will have to deal with the societal costs that are being discussed and ultimately the impact to the workforce when employers have to navigate through this process," Ashton Eller with the Chamber said.

Rep. Wendy McNamara, the chair of the Courts and Criminal Codes Committee, says she will not bring the bill back for a vote next week. McNamara did not explain to WRTV why the bill wouldn't be brought for a vote.

VanNatter says he will bring the bill back again next year.

Decriminalizing marijuana and advancing legislation to make it legally accessible was one of the priorities for Senate Democrats this session.

Last year, Gov. Eric Holcomb said he will not consider blanket pardons for all prior offenses of simple possession of marijuana despite President Biden's announcement of a plan to do so on the federal level.

RELATED: Marijuana bills filed for Indiana 2023 legislative session | December survey shows majority of Hoosiers favor marijuana legalization