Republican Primary

While many thought that Holcomb would go uncontested in the Republican primary after State Representative Jim Lucas declined to challenge his colleague at the ballot (a request made frequently by his followers on social media), a new and mostly unknown individual has filed paperwork to initiate the process of putting himself on the ballot alongside Holcomb. Brian Roth is creating an exploratory committee for a gubernatorial bid, although must aquire a certain number of signatures in each Congressional district in order to actually have his name on the ballot when Republican voters head to the polls to determine which candidates to send into the general election.

We reached out to Roth to request a statement on his stance on various aspects of cannabis reform, although he declined to state his specific opinions at this time. “We don’t want to get the cart before the horse so our focus is getting on the ballot,” he explained. “Without that, my position is academic. Once we are on the ballot we will make our policy positions known.” Roth must obtain 500 signature from residents in each of Indiana’s 9 Congressional districts, and with his campaign keeping such a tight lid on his motivations and positions, it is unclear how easy it will be for him to find enough individuals willing to sign his paperwork.

For those following this issue, Holcomb’s stance is well known: he does not want to legalize a gateway drug in the midst of an opioid crisis, and the only way anyone in Indiana will every obtain it for medical purposes is when it is approved by the FDA. The form letter he sends to constituents who write to him about any aspect of cannabis legalization outside of hemp has remained the same for his entire time in office.

In February, Holcomb admitted to using cannabis in college, but it did not impact his stance. “We are following the law, and I am proud of that fact. I like to be in line with federal law.”

Democratic Primary

Dr. Woody Myers is the first of two Democratic candidates to officially run for the office. Myers originally released a statement to Indy Politics, and while it is perhaps a more detailed summary that many candidates for office have available, there are some points that do require some elaboration.

Here’s a copy of his statement:

“While I favor the appropriate medical use of products containing a known dosage of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), our medical community, legislature and policy makers should be thoughtful and should examine the experience of other states when considering new legislation and rulemaking. I do favor the decriminalization of the possession of THC containing products for personal use- our law-enforcement officials have higher priorities and there is great evidence nationally of disproportionate sentencing in disenfranchised populations.

I am not convinced that full recreational legalization of THC containing products is a wise move in and for Indiana. Those who believe that there are no potentially serious clinical effects for some patients are simply wrong. And even if a new law creates a minimum purchase age of 21, we all know there will be many violations and there will be consequences for the mental and physical health of the children who will be exposed to the smoke and who will consume the edible product.

I am pleased to see the emerging research characterizing the benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD) containing products (now legal in all 50 states) and I am encouraged by the potential benefits for IN agriculture as our farmers produce more hemp crops from which CBD is derived.

My views are not new, and I believe they are shared by most members of our medical community. I’d be happy to comment further after we make the final determination to move forward with a campaign, likely in a few weeks.”

We reached out to Myers to ask some follow-up questions, although he has not yet responded. Our questions included the following:

“1) You mention that you support decriminalization. For you, what are the parameters of the type of decriminalization legislation that you would support? Decriminalization can range from tickets for small amounts that escalate to greater charges after multiple incidences, to law enforcement allowing you to continue on your way with no fuss if you possess up to a certain amount of product. Where are you on that spectrum?

 

2) In your previous statement you claim that, “While I favor appropriate medical use of products containing a known dosage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), our medical community, legislature and policy makers should be thoughtful and should examine the experience of other states when considering new legislation and rulemaking.” In the absence of federal reform, do you support the Indiana legislature initiating a process to regulate cannabis cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of cannabis for medical purposes, or do you, like Holcomb, defer exclusively to the F.D.A, no matter how long that might take?

3) While your primary role as Governor will be to determine which bills to sign and to execute them once signed into law, as governor you will also have a lot of influence with respect to which issues the legislature decides to tackle during each session. If elected, would you make decriminalization or a medical cannabis program one of your legislative priorities, or would you simply review whatever legislation might happen to land on your desk?”

We hope to hear from Myers soon, and will update accordingly.

In more recent news, Democrat Josh Owens has also filed paperwork to launch a campaign. While Owens’ campaign is very fresh and details are just emerging regarding his positions, the decriminalization of cannabis is listed as part of his agenda in order to “invest those funds towards lower healthcare costs.”

We asked Owens a number of questions, and he responded accordingly:

Do you believe that cannabis should be decriminalized in Indiana? If so, please explain the details of the type of cannabis legislation you would support.

“I do think the cannabis should be decriminalized and that we should have legal sales of cannabis with regulation similar to tobacco in Indiana. We have been slow to act compared with other states, despite the fact that cannabis has been shown to be an effective treatment for some medical conditions and that we could use the tax dollars generated from public sales and production to fund targeted health care programming aimed at lowering the cost of care for Hoosiers in need. I think it’s an obvious policy we should adopt as a state.”

Do you believe that Indiana should enact a program for the lawful use of cannabis by individuals with medical conditions that could potentially be improved by cannabis?

“Yes, and we should do so quickly. It is important for medical professionals to have all proven options available for treating their patients, and it is important for Hoosiers to have options here at home that are otherwise readily available in other states.”

Do you believe that Indiana should legalize recreational cannabis for use by adults?

“Yes. This will allow us to regulate the usage of cannabis, but also use tax dollars generated to put towards targeted programs in our state. Our current laws are behind the times and continue to hurt communities disproportionately.”

How do you feel about measures to address the harms of cannabis arrests that have already happened? For example, expunging criminal records and/or commuting sentences.

“Enforcement of laws on marijuana possession have always been one sided and disproportionately affected minority communities. I would push for expunging criminal records and commuting sentences related to marijuana possession, so long as there were no other circumstances and it was a non-violence drug related arrest. It is the right thing to do and the moral thing to do. Our laws should reflect that now, into the future, and address the injustices that have happened in the past.”

Lastly, Eddie Melton is still publicly considering a run, and has stated that he supports legal recreational use along with expunging criminal records. When we reached out to ask if he is still leaning towards a run, he commented that he is still in the exploratory committee phase.

Libertarian

While the Libertarian Party of Indiana does not qualify for primary elections, they will be holding their state convention to nominate candidates on March 6th in Indianapolis. The only individual currently seeking the gubernatorial nomination from the LPIN is Bill Levin, founder of the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis. “Over 5 million Hoosiers want safe access to Cannabis,” he recently posted on his personal Facebook profile. “I want them to have it. Please Vote with Love!”

Since the LPIN has ballot access in Indiana, any Libertarian gubernatorial candidate will appear alongside Democrat and Republican candidates during the general election debates hosted by the Indiana Debate Commission.