Marijuana is still illegal in Indiana, and we’re losing millions to our neighbors.

February 24, 2023 · IndyStar

Indiana’s elected leaders have the opportunity to create a new industry that will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for our economy, tying together two of our most important and well-established economic sectors: manufacturing and agriculture, which happen to lie at the heart of the cannabis industry. 

Now is the time for the state to act and legalize a regulated cannabis market.

Like it or not, cannabis is here to stay, with 37 states now allowing the use of medical cannabis products and 21 states and the District of Columbia allowing the use of non-medical cannabis for personal or recreational consumption. As cannabis has been legalized, these states have experienced substantial economic growth. We believe the state of Indiana has the opportunity to do the same.

Mirroring public opinion across several states, overall Hoosier views on cannabis also lean favorable, with over 85% of respondents in a recent Indiana Public Broadcasting survey citing that marijuana should be legal in some form.

As of March 2022, states reported a combined total of $11.2 billion in tax revenue from legal, adult-use cannabis sales, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. In 2021 alone, legalization states generated more than $3.7 billion in cannabis tax revenue from adult-use sales. Neighboring states like Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio have legalized marijuana in some form, and Indiana can no longer lose ground to these opportunities.

Marijuana legalization:13 marijuana bills died in Indiana’s 2022 legislative session. This year, one has been heard

Currently, federal law prohibits cannabis from moving between states. Each state that legalizes cannabis must create its own infrastructure inside its own borders, meaning facilities for growing the product, production facilities and transportation entities must all be located inside the state. If we wait until federal legalization, the states that have already legalized cannabis will be able to import their product to Indiana, leaving Indiana subject to only housing cannabis retail locations. We will have missed out on the high-paying jobs that come with cannabis growth and production facilities.

Should Indiana legalize cannabis before the federal regulation, the state will have the opportunity to add the high-paying jobs that state universities supply degrees for, like chemistry, agriculture or business. Waiting to act until federal legalization will limit Indiana’s economic and job market growth and only fuel the illicit market in our state.

There are other compelling reasons to legalize, including the fact that spending law enforcement time on enforcing our current cannabis laws is not the best use of scarce taxpayer dollars when we have more extreme issues, like crime. Additionally, around 1 in every 5 Americans are affected by chronic pain, with an estimated cost of $560 billion for medical care and disability. They lack effective non-opioid treatment, and 3 million U.S. citizens have had or currently have opioid use disorder. A study highlighted in the National Library of Medicine showed a 64% reduction in opioid use amongst chronic pain patients who used medical marijuana. With the ongoing opioid epidemic, medical cannabis as a possible alternative treatment needs to be considered. 

We are also losing revenue to our surrounding states. In October 2022 alone, Illinois made more than $40 million off out-of-state sales to Hoosiers and other neighboring residents, with the monthly average for total cannabis sales just under $128 million. The governor of Kentucky also recently signed an executive order legalizing medical marijuana in the commonwealth.

Cannabis will be legal in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky, and we have yet to have a serious legislative debate on the subject in Indiana, even when cannabis use in Indiana is clearly here.

By analyzing what’s gone right and wrong with our neighboring states’ models of legalization, we have the opportunity to do it best — to do it the Hoosier way. We need a regulated market with rules, a moderate tax and to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes simultaneously to eliminate the black market.

Legalizing cannabis:Indiana marijuana reform: These are the bills to follow in 2023

A legal, regulated market that displaces the current black market in Indiana helps ensure that any cannabis consumed in Indiana is tested, safe and fentanyl-free. We’ve seen success through our work because we have control over a quality product from seed to sale. Vertical integration, which includes having access to growing, processing and retail sale licenses, allows for flexibility in operations and product offerings to meet changing market demands and eliminates potential retailer markups on price, removing black market incentives and benefitting the consumer. 

It is critical to pass responsible legislation that ensures safety, social equity, keeps cannabis out of the hands of children and prevents Hoosiers from abusing cannabis or driving while using it. 

We need a well-regulated market that allows for Indiana companies to participate in this growing industry and for citizens to safely use cannabis recreationally. We hope that businesses and policymakers will join the fight for a more lucrative and safer tomorrow.

Let’s get to work to make this a reality in Indiana. (Full Story)

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