STATEHOUSE — For the first time ever, lawmakers heard testimony during a legislative session both for and against legalizing pot.
A hearing of the Indiana House Courts and Criminal Code committee is the first committee to consider a bill to legalize pot in some capacity in Indiana. However, that is as far as the matter will go this session as State Rep. Wendy McNamara, who chairs the committee, said that she would not be bringing the bill back up for a vote this session.
Before that decision was made, the committee heard testimony from many different people and organizations with a stake in the subject legal pot.
“It’s time that Indiana joins all of its neighboring states,”said State Rep Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo) who authored the bill. “Every state around us has some form of legalization — Ohio and Kentucky have medical and Illinois and Michigan have recreational.”
His bill would remove criminal penalties for people who are caught with 2 ounces of pot or less.
Dr. Richard Feldman, Indiana’s former state health commissioner, even spoke in favor of the bill.
“Marijuana is not a hard drug,” Dr. Feldman said. “It’s not a narcotic and certainly safer than alcohol and tobacco.”
There were those in opposition to the bill who spoke. Barbara Rosenberg, who is legal counsel for Indiana State Police, said there are many concerns about it from the law enforcement community.
“There’s still concerns about anyone having access to this if you can grow this product in your backyard or have that ability,” she said. “And with that comes the concern that there will be enhanced use prior to driving on our roads.”
Others, like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, are concerned that the bill makes things confusing regarding how to approach drug testing of workers by employers.
In the end, VanNatter said he got some good feedback on the bill and plans to re-introduce it in next year’s legislative session with some tweaks.
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