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The federal government is reclassifying marijuana and some Hoosiers hope that brings change to Indiana

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Posted at 3:57 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 09:38:41-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. government has started the process to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

The move means the government would recognize that pot has medical benefits, but the drug wouldn't be made legal across the country.

Still, some Hoosiers who closely follow cannabis issues say this federal move could spur Indiana lawmakers to join its neighboring states and legalize marijuana.

"You would hope that it would put some pressure on lawmakers in Indiana to start getting with the times as far as updating our codes when it comes to cannabis," said Shadi Khoury, an Indianapolis businessman who manufactures and distributes hemp products across the country.

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This hemp plant is among hundreds growing in the Dodi Hemp facility on Indianapolis's east side.

Khoury said he sells millions of THC gummies and thousands of vape products from his Dodi Hemp facility on the east side.

He employs about 50 people in the hemp facility and at seven Indy E Cigs locations, but Khoury said he is poised to grow if marijuana ever becomes legal in Indiana.

"We'd probably go from 50 employees to 250 pretty quickly," Khoury said. "That would require a lot of logistics in house, but we're ready to take that on. We have room to expand, and we want to expand in Indiana."

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Shadi Khoury, owner of Indy E Cigs and Dodi Hemp, pulls some leaves off of a hemp plant in his company's growing room. Khoury manufactures and sell hemp products throughout the U.S. from a warehouse on the east side of Indianapolis.

Recreational pot is legal for any adult in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. In Kentucky, it’s legal to buy medical marijuana.

Indiana is one of just 12 states with a total ban on weed.

Opponents, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, say that's not a bad thing.

"If there are more individuals using marijuana, studies have shown that workplace accidents, workplace fatalities and things of that nature tend to go up," said Ashton Eller, vice president of health care policy and employment law at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber believes medical marijuana needs more study before it should be legalized in Indiana, Eller said.

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Hundreds of hemp plants are growing in the Dodi Hemp facility on Indianapolis's east side.

"If we're gonna talk about medical marijuana, we need to know that this is safe and that can be effectively used to treat various illnesses and ailments," Eller said. "And we don't know that at this point."

Michael Pettet and Brett Kester opened Dark Void Vapes a year ago on the west side of Indianapolis.

They say a small businesses like theirs won’t see any growth until marijuana is legalized.

"I do think it's a little backwards that it is like the last state," Kester said. "I mean, everyone else, all the surrounding states have legalized it."

"A lot of people are just driving across the border to do it anyways and at risk of getting a felony charge."

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Michael Pettet, left, and Brett Kester own Dark Void Vapes, 2901 W. 16th St., Indianapolis.

The federal government announced recently it is starting the months-long process of rescheduling marijuana from a schedule 1 drug, that includes dangerous substances like heroin and LSD, to a schedule 3 drug, alongside prescription products like Tylenol with codeine and steroids.

Lobbiest Justin Swanson has been fighting for marijuana reform in the Indiana statehouse for nearly a decade and said this change is a step forward.

“It's definitely a win because it's final recognition that there is medical value here with this plant," Swanson said. "But there's still going to be this existing conflict between state and federal law."

Indiana lawmakers have resisted calls for change in marijuana laws for years, but Swanson noted that change is coming to those elected offices.

Swanson said the only real chance for meaningful reform will come in November, when Hoosiers get to vote on a new governor and other legislative offices.

"I always put it back on the voters to show up to vote, understand where your lawmakers are on the position and hold them accountable," Swanson said.

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Hundreds of hemp plants are growing in the Dodi Hemp facility on Indianapolis's east side.

MORE | Indiana remains 'an island of prohibition' as surrounding states legalize marijuana. Some hope that changes. | Ohio voters approved recreational marijuana. Here's why Hoosiers won't get the chance | Neighbor states reap tax money as Indiana resists legalizing marijuana | New survey shows majority of Hoosiers favor Marijuana legalization | Indiana lawmakers hear testimony on marijuana decriminalization bill | Marijuana bills filed for Indiana 2023 legislative session | What happened to Indiana's 13 marijuana bills? They all went up in smoke.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.