UPDATE: State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville), the House courts and criminal code committee chairwoman, said the Indiana House will not vote on this bill this session.
McNamara did not answer questions about why the bill will not get a vote in committee. During the hearing, she told lawmakers she wanted to hear testimony to have a conversation about the idea of marijuana decriminalization.
“The public is shifting in this direction, and legislators are following that.” State Rep. Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo) told reporters after the hearing.
VanNatter introduced House Bill 1297, which would decriminalize possession of two ounces or less of marijuana. That means cannabis would still be illegal, but criminal penalties would not be imposed.
During the hearing, nine people testified in support of the bill, including Dr. Richard Feldman, former state health commissioner, who spoke on behalf of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians.
“Marijuana is not a hard drug,” Dr. Feldman said. “It’s not a narcotic and certainly safer than alcohol and tobacco.”
But three Hoosiers, including members of the business and law enforcement communities, spoke against the proposal.
“There’s still concerns about anyone having access to this if you can grow this product in your backyard or have that ability,” said Barbara Rosenberg, legal counsel for the Indiana State Police. “And with that comes the concern that there will be enhanced use prior to driving on our roads.”
VanNatter said he believes the legislature could take action on this type of legislation in the next year or two.
Previously, Republican legislative leaders have expressed opposition to any new marijuana legislation since cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.
INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in Indiana’s history, a bill discussing the decriminalization of marijuana in the Hoosier state is getting a hearing.
House Bill 1297, which could potentially decriminalize the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, is set to be discussed on Wednesday at the Indiana Statehouse.
Indiana is one of 13 states that has not legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use.
In December 2022, Republican legislative leaders at the Indiana Statehouse said that they anticipated discussing cannabis legislation this session.
While no specifics were provided then, Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) said he expected potential regulations on delta-8, the chemical compound in hemp, to be included in their discussions.
Around the same time, Democrats argued that Indiana is overdue to take action on cannabis legislation.
“I say we kick the door wide open,” said Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis). “We should at least put together a commission because the federal government’s going to do something.”
HB 1297, the decriminalization bill set to be discussed Wednesday, was authored by Republican Rep. Heath VanNatter of District 38 and co-authored by both fellow party members and a Democrat representative.
The bill’s listed co-authors are:
- Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-District 77)
- Rep. Jim Lucas (R-District 69)
- Rep. Becky Cash (R-District 25)
The bill had its first reading on Jan. 11 and will now be discussed by state lawmakers. If passed, it would take effect on July 1, 2023, documents show.