Wisconsin Governor Pardons Several for Cannabis Offenses

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued another round of pardons last week, including 11 for individuals previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses.

Clemency has been a defining part of Evers’ gubernatorial tenure.

In May, Evers issued dozens to bring his total number of pardons to 498, with his office saying at the time that he had “granted more pardons during his first three years in office than any other governor in contemporary history.”

The first-term Democrat, who is up for re-election this year, granted another 49 pardons on Friday to bring his total up to 603.

“It is one of the most rewarding parts of my job as governor to have the opportunity to grant a fresh start to folks who’ve made efforts to learn and grow from their past mistakes,” said Evers. “Forgiveness is an important value I know we all share as Wisconsinites, and I’m grateful for the Pardon Advisory Board for continuing to prioritize this work, giving folks second chances so they can continue their work giving back.”  

As was the case in May, a number of last week’s pardon recipients had been previously busted on pot-related charges. The governor’s office provided brief descriptions of each of those individuals, and details of their offenses:

  • “Cynthia Cook was 31 when she participated in selling marijuana to a confidential informant. A mother and caretaker, she now resides in Oconto Falls.”
  • “Candace Davis was 40 when she sold a controlled substance to an informant and was subsequently found in possession of marijuana and controlled substances. Now 28 years later, she has maintained steady employment in Beloit, where she resides with her family.”
  • “Deontae Hodges was 24 when he was found in possession of marijuana during a traffic stop. He resides in Milwaukee where he has maintained steady employment. The Court supports his pardon.”
  • “Matthew Kasel was 20 when he purchased marijuana from an undercover officer. Now nearly two decades later, he owns an HVAC business and resides in Kaukauna with his family.”
  • “Gerald Love was 27 when he was found in possession of marijuana. Since, he has earned his GED and CDL. He now resides in Milwaukee with his family.”
  • “Leonard Maland was 25 when police caught him selling marijuana. Now, nearly three decades later, he drives trucks and owns a small mobile restaurant with his spouse in Eau Claire, where he now resides.”
  • “Anthony Naber was not yet 20 when he sold marijuana to a confidential informant two decades ago. Residing in Wisconsin with his family, he has since obtained two associate degrees and volunteers in his community. The district attorney’s office supports his pardon.”
  • “Matthew Raap was 18 years old when he sold marijuana and controlled substances to undercover officers. Now years later, he resides in Richfield where he has built a successful career in the cybersecurity field and volunteers to help incarcerated individuals receive their college degree. He received resounding community support for his pardon, including from both the Court and district attorney’s office.”
  • “Jim Swanson was 25 when he sold marijuana to an undercover officer 28 years ago. He now resides in Ellsworth where he cares for his mother.”
  • “Errick Weiser had marijuana growing on his property. He earned his bachelor’s degree and volunteers with his county’s fair board and the Wisconsin Parasite Museum. The district attorney’s office supports his pardon.”
  • “Peter Wussow was in his 30s when he was mailed a package of marijuana, which he intended to sell with others. He has since built a career in welding and now resides in Oshkosh with his family.”

In addition to exercising his pardon power, Evers has also been a vocal champion of cannabis reform in the Badger State, repeatedly calling on lawmakers there to end the prohibition on pot.

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Democrat Senators’ Legalization Plan 

Democrats have a legalization plan. US Senators have introduced yet another cannabis legalization act. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) legislation would create a tax and regulatory structure for legal cannabis. America’s National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has applauded the act but remains cautious about the impact on small businesses. Democrat Senators’ Legalization Plan […]

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Biden Says He’s ‘Working On’ Bill To Release Cannabis Inmates

President Joe Biden reiterated his belief that no one should be behind bars for using cannabis, saying Sunday that he is working on legislation to help fulfill that campaign promise.

Biden, returning to Washington, D.C. following a four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, made the comments to a gaggle of reporters gathered on the White House lawn.

One reporter asked the president if he intended to honor his “campaign pledge to release all the marijuana inmates in prison.”

“I don’t think there should — I dont think anyone in pri- — anyone should be in prison for the use of marijuana,” Biden said, according to a White House pool report. “We’re working on the Crime Bill now.”

The brief response represented Biden’s most extensive and explicit comments on cannabis reform since his term began last year.

But it was also something Biden has said previously, most notably on the campaign trail in 2020. While he has yet to embrace outright cannabis legalization, Biden has long spoken out against marijuana-related incarceration.

In a memorable interview on “The Breakfast Club” in the spring of 2020, Biden said that it “makes no sense for people to go to jail” for weed and explained why he supports decriminalization but not legalization.

“Because they’re trying to find out whether or not there is any impact on the use of marijuana, not in leading you to other drugs, but what it affects. Does it affect long term development of the brain and we should wait until the studies are done,” Biden said. “I think science matters.”

Comments like that––as well as Biden’s refusal to support an end to the federal prohibition––have frustrated cannabis reform advocates, as well as members of the president’s own party.

In November, three Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden urging him to “pardon all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses, whether formerly or currently incarcerated.”

“Our country’s cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now: you can and should issue a blanket pardon for all non-violent federal cannabis offenses, fulfilling your promises to the American people and transforming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans,” the senators, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, wrote in the letter.

“As a candidate for President, you argued that, ‘We should decriminalize marijuana,’ and, ‘Everyone [with a marijuana record] should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out,’” they wrote. “The first and simplest step in the process is a blanket pardon. The Constitution grants you the authority to pardon broad classes of Americans to correct widespread injustice, as previous presidents have done.”

In May, Biden commuted 75 individuals who were serving time for nonviolent drug offenses and issued three full pardons.

There is robust support for cannabis legalization among Democrats on Capitol Hill, but that has not yet translated to policy reform.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in April, a bill that would remove cannabis from the list of federal Controlled Substances Act.

But the bill has since stalled in the Senate, where Democratic leaders have said they intend to produce their cannabis reform bill.

In April, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said that the caucus would release its marijuana legislation at some point before the Congressional recess in August, pledging that the bill would also remove weed from the Controlled Substances Act.

But there are growing indications that the legislation in the Senate will be far more scaled back than what Schumer had promised.

Politico reported last month that Schumer “doesn’t have the votes to pass a sweeping marijuana decriminalization bill — despite repeatedly touting his support for ending federal prohibition,” and that “realization is leading Senate Democrats to look for a compromise on weed.”

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Wisconsin Governor Pardons Several With Cannabis Convictions

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Friday announced dozens of new pardons, including nine for individuals previously convicted for cannabis-related offenses.

“There is power in redemption and forgiveness, especially for folks who’ve been working to move beyond their past mistakes to be productive, positive members of their communities,” Evers said in a statement. “I’m grateful for being able to give a second chance to these individuals who’ve worked hard to do just that.”

Evers, the first-term Democrat, has now “granted more pardons during his first three years in office than any other governor in contemporary history,” according to a release from his office, which said that he has granted a total of 498 pardons since taking office in 2019.

The nine individuals previously busted for pot-related offenses who received a pardon on Friday include Danielle Arrigo, who “was 22 when she twice sold marijuana to a confidential informant,” and “now resides in Burlington with her daughter and has earned her associate degree.”

There was also Jeremy Busch, who “was pulled over for suspected drunk driving” 22 years ago when “police discovered he had been drinking and smoking marijuana.” Busch was 18 at that time.

“Now 22 years later, he resides in Genoa City and has obtained an associate and bachelor’s degree in the fields of civil engineering and architecture, graduating magna cum laude,” according to the governor’s office.

Per the Friday announcement from Evers’s office, the following individuals with marijuana-related convictions were also pardoned: “Christina Darby was 22 when officers found marijuana in her home. She has since moved to California with her children, earned an associate degree, and works as a property manager.”; “Gary Davis, Jr. was around 20 years old when he was found in possession of marijuana and other controlled substances. Three decades later, he now resides in Madison and has worked as a youth/juvenile counselor with local social services organizations.”; “Henry Hong was 20 when he sold a controlled substance and was also found in possession of marijuana and a stolen pistol. He now resides in Raeford, North Carolina, where he owns a restaurant and has earned a master’s degree.”; “John Jezuit was a teenager when he punched someone while on probation for selling marijuana. Nearly two decades later, he now resides in Madison and has earned his bachelor’s degree in social welfare.”; “Travis Nelson was 18 when he sold marijuana to a confidential informant. He now resides in Denmark with his family and founded his own trucking business over 13 years ago.”; “Lawrence Riche was 20 when officers found marijuana in his residence, and several years later, he was again found with marijuana, controlled substances, and firearms. Now 40 years later, he resides in Menomonee Falls, has remained sober, and has maintained long-term employment as a steamfitter.” 

As the governor’s announcement on Friday explained, a pardon “does not expunge court records,” but it is “an official act of forgiveness that restores rights lost when someone is convicted of a felony, including the right to serve on a jury, hold public office, and hold certain professional licenses.”

For Evers, who is up for re-election this year, the pardons are consistent with repeated calls for cannabis reform in the Badger State. Last year, Evers’ budget proposal included a plan to legalize medical and recreational cannabis use, both of which are against the law in Wisconsin.

In February, Evers vetoed a Republican-backed measure that would have instituted new penalties in Wisconsin for manufacturing and distributing cannabis or resin by butane extraction.

“It is widely accepted, and, indeed, research over the course of the last decade confirms, that marijuana criminalization has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, especially in Wisconsin where have long-standing racial disparities in incarceration rates,” Evers said in his veto statement at the time.

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Kentucky Governor Announces Medical Cannabis Plan

Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear released a plan to make medicinal cannabis available to medical patients, saying that lawmakers have failed to make progress on the issue. Beshear’s announcement comes after the state legislature voted down a medicinal cannabis legalization bill last month.

“Its time has come and it can give some ailing Kentuckians relief,” Beshear said at a news conference, as quoted by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

In March, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed House Bill 136, a bill that would have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis for certain medical conditions and created a regulatory framework for commercial cannabis production and sales. But after the state Senate failed to approve the measure, Beshear said on April 7 that he was considering taking executive action to get medical pot into the hands of patients. On Wednesday, the governor announced a plan to do just that.

“If they are not going to take action—not even give it a committee hearing in the Senate—then I believe it’s my obligation to see what’s possible given the will of the people and their desire to move forward on this,” he said. “It’s time to certainly move the conversation forward.”

“Would I have preferred if the legislature had passed it?” Beshear asked. “Yes. But they didn’t.”

Governor Creates Advisory Panel

Beshear said that he has asked his general counsel for information on what executive actions can be taken to move the medical cannabis process along without the approval of lawmakers. He also said that he would appoint a Governor’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Team to hold meetings across Kentucky to get residents’ input on the issue. The governor’s office has also set up an email account (GovMedicalCannabisAdvisoryTeam@ky.gov) so that residents who are unable to attend the public hearings can provide input.

“I want to be clear: I am for medical cannabis,” Beshear said. “I want it done in the right way, and we’re going to be looking at our legal options very closely. And at the same time, we want to hear from you.”

The GOP-controlled legislature has balked at previous executive orders issued by Beshear and has passed legislation to curtail his use of them. But the governor said that his efforts are motivated by compassion, not politics.

“If you meet a parent who can’t stop their child from having seizures, but they’ve been to another state and this works, they ought to have that opportunity to help that child,” Beshear said.

When asked if Kentucky should legalize recreational cannabis, Beshear said that he is not yet prepared to go that far. But he did say that he supports the decriminalization of cannabis possession.

“Nobody needs to go to jail, ultimately causing them loss of job, being hard on their family, for possession of marijuana,” Beshear said. “And it is very rare that it happens right now. But I think the fact that it continues to happen shows that we’re a little outdated.”

GOP Lawmakers Blast Governor’s Plan

But Republican lawmakers rebuked the governor for his statements. Senate President Robert Stivers said that Beshear does not have the authority to legalize cannabis unilaterally.

“The public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change statute by executive order,” Stiver wrote in a statement on Thursday evening. “He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statute by executive order because it’s a Constitutional separation of powers violation.”

The Senate president also said that he is opposed to efforts to levy taxes on medicinal cannabis.

“The governor indicated previously he intends to tax marijuana; we don’t tax medicine in Kentucky,” Stiver added. “If our governor truly believes marijuana should be used for medicinal purposes, taxing it would be wholly inappropriate.”

Stiver went on to note that a bill related to cannabis research has been passed by state lawmakers but Beshear has so far failed to sign the measure into law.

“The General Assembly has initiated an effort to conduct additional research on medical marijuana through the passage of HB 604 during this past legislative session,” he wrote. “HB 604 establishes the Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Kentucky to research the efficacy of medical cannabis. The Governor may speak in favor of medical marijuana, but he still has not signed HB 604 that has been sitting on his desk since April 14.”

Beshear said that his administration will spend the next two months further developing a plan to legalize medical cannabis through executive action.

“It’s got to be done right,” he said. “And I believe that we have an opportunity to set up the right regulatory framework where we don’t see abuse. And this gives us a chance over the next couple months to be thoughtful. But we will be looking at action and a culmination into some form of action depending on our legal options.”

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Florida’s Top Democrat Suing Biden Admin. Over Rule Barring Medical Cannabis Users From Buying Guns

The highest ranking Democrat in Florida is taking on the leader of her party—and the country—over weed and guns.

Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner and a Democratic candidate for governor, “plans to sue the Biden administration Wednesday to try to block a federal rule that prohibits medical marijuana users from buying guns or maintaining concealed-carry permits,” according to NBC News, which obtained a copy of Fried’s lawsuit.

“I’m suing the Biden Administration because people’s rights are being limited. Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal,” Fried said in a tweet on Wednesday morning. “This is about people’s rights and their freedoms to responsibly have both.”

(The 4/20 announcement of Fried’s lawsuit against the Biden administration was not a coincidence, by the way.)

NBC reported that the “lawsuit targets a federal form that asks whether the gun buyer is an unlawful user of drugs and specifies that marijuana is illegal under federal law.”

Prospective customers who check “yes” are denied and those who lie “[run] the risk of a five-year prison sentence for making a false statement,” according to NBC News.

The lawsuit from Fried, who is currently the only Florida Democrat holding a statewide office, will have a major bearing on her own jurisdiction, where medical cannabis has been legal since voters there passed an initiative in 2016 and where gun ownership is ubiquitous.

But it could also set a precedent for the dozens of other states where medical cannabis is legal.

Fried is a longtime champion of cannabis reform. “I’ve always been pro-cannabis but didn’t really understand the movement [early on],” she told High Times in an interview last year, saying that her passion was sparked as a student at the University of Florida.

She won her race for agriculture commissioner in 2018 on a platform dedicated to changing Florida’s cannabis laws.

“At the time, we weren’t talking legalization, we were trying to still get medical, but they knew that I was in favor of legalization when the time was right for Florida,” Fried told High Times.

Fried has ramped up her legalization push in her gubernatorial campaign, which she launched last year.

She is running for the Democratic nomination against Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor turned Democratic congressman. Both candidates have pledged to legalize cannabis for adults if elected, but Fried has called out Crist on his GOP past, saying in October that people have been imprisoned, and Crist and other Republicans “supported and enforced racist marijuana crime bills.”

Fried and Crist are vying for the chance to take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate who has said that recreational cannabis will not be legalized while he’s in office.

“Not while I’m governor,” DeSantis said in 2019. “I mean look, when that is introduced with teenagers and young people, I think it has a really detrimental effect to their well being and their maturity.”

Polls show that both Democrats are longshots against the incumbent.

“Ron DeSantis is motivated by money,” Fried told High Times last year in explaining the governor’s opposition to cannabis reform. “I think his motivation is more his ability to raise money.”

As NBC News explained, the lawsuit “is laden with political opportunity for Fried, who became the only Democrat elected statewide in 2018 when she ran on an unabashedly pro-cannabis platform,” with polls repeatedly showing that a majority of Floridians—like the rest of the country—support legalizing pot.

According to NBC, Fried “is bringing the suit with three citizens who have been affected by the federal rules,” and the suit “names the acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Attorney General Merrick Garland as defendants.”

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Schumer Pushes Back Release For Senate Legalization Bill

The wait for the Senate’s version of a cannabis legalization bill will continue for months, with Democratic leaders in the chamber indicating Thursday that it will come sometime in the summer.

According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he’s proud of the progress senators have made in “bringing this vital bill closer to its official introduction” before the recess in early August.”

The timeline marks a shift from what Schumer had said previously and it may dismay legalization advocates who had hoped that the Senate’s legislation would arrive sooner—especially after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own bill to end prohibition on the federal level earlier this month.

The New York Democrat said after the House’s passage that he hoped the Senate would unveil its legalization measure by the end of this month.

On April 1, the Democratic-led House passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending the federal prohibition on pot.

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is working with Schumer and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on the Senate’s legalization bill, said that the bill passed by the House was unlikely to win approval in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats.

“Right now we’re looking at doing the one that we’ve been working on for a long time,” Booker said, as quoted by Roll Call.

According to The Hill, Schumer said that the Senate’s bill is titled “the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act,” and the majority leader said the legislation will remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and “help repair our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”

Schumer and other Democrats on Capitol Hill have made it clear since the party took control of Congress and the White House last year that they intended to move on federal legalization.

In an interview with Politico last year, Schumer said that Democrats would take action, despite President Joe Biden’s reluctance to support legalization.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

Schumer said in the interview that seeing legalization work on the state level contributed to his evolution on the issue.

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said that he supported decriminalizing cannabis, but stopped short of advocating legalization.

Following the House’s passage of the MORE Act earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president believes “current marijuana laws are not working.”

“We look forward to working with Congress to achieve our shared goals, and we’ll continue having discussions with them about this objective,” Psaki said at a press briefing.

Winning over Biden may prove easier than getting support from Republicans, however. As The Hill noted, “Many Republicans are opposed to legislation legalizing marijuana, posing one of the biggest hurdles to Schumer getting such a measure through the 50-50 split Senate,” and that to “secure passage, Democrats would need the support of their entire caucus, and at least 10 Republicans to bypass a likely filibuster.”

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Schumer Pushes Back Release For Senate Legalization Bill

The wait for the Senate’s version of a cannabis legalization bill will continue for months, with Democratic leaders in the chamber indicating Thursday that it will come sometime in the summer.

According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he’s proud of the progress senators have made in “bringing this vital bill closer to its official introduction” before the recess in early August.”

The timeline marks a shift from what Schumer had said previously and it may dismay legalization advocates who had hoped that the Senate’s legislation would arrive sooner—especially after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own bill to end prohibition on the federal level earlier this month.

The New York Democrat said after the House’s passage that he hoped the Senate would unveil its legalization measure by the end of this month.

On April 1, the Democratic-led House passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending the federal prohibition on pot.

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is working with Schumer and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on the Senate’s legalization bill, said that the bill passed by the House was unlikely to win approval in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats.

“Right now we’re looking at doing the one that we’ve been working on for a long time,” Booker said, as quoted by Roll Call.

According to The Hill, Schumer said that the Senate’s bill is titled “the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act,” and the majority leader said the legislation will remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and “help repair our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”

Schumer and other Democrats on Capitol Hill have made it clear since the party took control of Congress and the White House last year that they intended to move on federal legalization.

In an interview with Politico last year, Schumer said that Democrats would take action, despite President Joe Biden’s reluctance to support legalization.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

Schumer said in the interview that seeing legalization work on the state level contributed to his evolution on the issue.

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said that he supported decriminalizing cannabis, but stopped short of advocating legalization.

Following the House’s passage of the MORE Act earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president believes “current marijuana laws are not working.”

“We look forward to working with Congress to achieve our shared goals, and we’ll continue having discussions with them about this objective,” Psaki said at a press briefing.

Winning over Biden may prove easier than getting support from Republicans, however. As The Hill noted, “Many Republicans are opposed to legislation legalizing marijuana, posing one of the biggest hurdles to Schumer getting such a measure through the 50-50 split Senate,” and that to “secure passage, Democrats would need the support of their entire caucus, and at least 10 Republicans to bypass a likely filibuster.”

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Indiana Lawmaker Welcomes Public Feedback on Medical Cannabis

A week after the state party announced a full-fledged push to legalize cannabis in Indiana, a Democratic lawmaker there is ready to stump for pot’s medical benefits.

Indiana State Rep. Sue Errington announced this week that she will host “a Community Talking Circle” in her hometown of Muncie next Monday, December 6, “to hear public feedback on legalizing medical cannabis in Indiana.”

The event comes on the heels of the Indiana Democratic Party announcement last month that it was throwing “its full support for the effort to legalize recreational cannabis across the state,” and that its members would aim to pass the new cannabis law in the upcoming legislative session.

“Legalizing marijuana in some form is supported by about 80-percent of Hoosiers and would provide the opportunity to create an additional revenue stream for the state, create good-paying jobs, develop a long-term cash crop for Indiana’s ag and business communities, provide medicinal opportunities for people like the state’s veterans and seniors, and could start the process of expunging records for simple possession across the state,” the party announced in a statement at the time.

The party cited a recent poll showing that 78 percent of Indianans support cannabis legalization, and pointed to the successful legalization efforts in nearby Illinois and Michigan as a proof of concept.

In the announcement, the state party said that Hoosiers are currently pouring “millions of dollars to Michigan and Illinois economies—where cannabis is legalized,” and that ending prohibition in Indiana would make it so the state has “a guaranteed cash crop in the long-term for the state’s businesses and farming communities, creating a revenue stream for the General Assembly to use in future sessions.”

“Hoosiers have seen the impact that recreational and medicinal cannabis use has made on the states around us, and not only are they contributing to neighboring states’ economies, Indiana is now on the verge of losing out altogether. The Republican supermajority at the statehouse is losing its economic common sense if they do not join Democrats this session in making this opportunity a winner for the Hoosier State,” said Mike Schmuhl, the chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.

The announcement from Hoosier State Democrats was made the day before “Organization Day,” a symbolic opening day of the legislative calendar when legislators meet and make preparations. The legislative session is slated to begin in January.

Errington said she encourages “anyone interested, whether in support or opposition of legalization, to attend our Community Talking Circle so that we can have a full, open conversation.”

“The General Assembly needs to hear your voice as we consider legalization in the upcoming legislative session,” she said.

The fight for cannabis reform has long been one of Errington’s biggest policy goals. On her campaign website, she lamented the thousands of cannabis arrests that occur annually in Indiana, saying that such enforcement came “at a huge financial cost to individuals and the state for a substance widely considered less harmful than alcohol.”

“Hoosiers suffering from pain and a variety of chronic illnesses should not be subject to arrest and incarceration for possessing cannabis, which is legally available in 33 other states and the District of Columbia,” Errington has stated on her website. “Nor should we continue to fill our prisons with people convicted of minor marijuana possession. The enforcement of marijuana laws falls heaviest on the young and minorities and has created egregious racial disparities in the prison population.”

In the press release promoting the Talking Circle, Errington noted that nearly 40 states have legalized medical cannabis, saying the “reality is that medical cannabis is becoming an accepted and preferred method of treatment throughout the country.”

“Medical cannabis is a safe, non-addictive alternative to opioids that could benefit Hoosiers who live with chronic pain and anxiety disorders, including our brave veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Errington said. “Those who have sacrificed so much for our state deserve an effective treatment for their pain, rather than a potential criminal record.”

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