In many ways this past year has been one of building. Of building support, of building bridges to other groups and organizations as well as to public officials.
We started the year with the first ever bill to decriminalize Marijuana in Indiana, introduced by Senator Karen Tallian. But Chairman of the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, Senator Michael Young, refused to hear the bill. Meanwhile, the overhaul of the Indiana criminal justice system, H.R. 1006, did slightly reduce first time possession charges from an “A” misdemeanor to a “B” misdemeanor. It also strengthened the mandatory minimum sentencing laws and has other components certainly not friendly to Cannabis freedom.
A note, at this point. It was erroneously reported that Indiana had felonized simple possession. It did not. Governor Mike Pence did state he wanted to strengthen Marijuana laws, but just because he is Governor doesn’t mean he gets everything he wants. H.R. 1006 passed and first time possession under 30 grams remains in the misdemeanor camp. We still run into people who think we’ve gone backwards. Never fear…we will be back!
In an effort to encourage Senator Young to hear Tallian’s bill, Indiana NORML held a rally in the rotunda of the Indiana State House. 50 some people showed up, so we didn’t have the impact I wish we would have, but it was a powerful rally nevertheless. We got their attention.
In October of 2012, a Howey Report poll showed 54% of Hoosiers wanted Marijuana law reform. But in April of 2013 the Howey organization polled again and found 56% of us wanted Marijuana law reform. Clearly a majority of the citizens of Indiana wanted reform, but Indiana NORML continued with our education and information campaign. Our website, www.inorml.org, has thousands of hits per month, and our Facebook and Twitter pages are always busy. We saw a tremendous increase in our electronic communications this year.
And we didn’t just sit at the computer, either. Indiana NORML was represented at the Ann Arbor Hash Bash, where we made good contacts with our brothers and sisters in Michigan. We also participated in 420 events, including the Broad Ripple march and tabling in a couple of places around the state including the Mousetrap bar on N. Keystone in Indianapolis. We were included in a forum at Indiana University South East put on by that campus’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. A crew from Indiana NORML addressed the Indiana Farmer’s Union, and we have their support. Later in the year, we presented before the Indianapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and earned their respect towards decriminalization of Marijuana.
In June, INORML tabled at the Indy Pride event, where we have been welcomed for several years. We then went down to Louisville, Kentucky and participated in “The Hoot,” a combination Earth Day and welcome to Spring event (lots of people cross that river to participate in the Louisville life).
And then there was Occustock! An event in southwestern Indiana that drew about 300 people and has some of the best music in the area. We spoke to a lot of really great people there, changed some minds and reinforced others.
INORML also was represented at the Lady Godiva freedom rally on July 4th where we spoke to a diverse crowd of freedom loving Hoosiers, ranging from Occupiers to Tea Partiers. We also joined in a screening of “Hemp for Victory” and “Reefer Madness” staged by the Libertarian Party.
And, of course, INORML at the Indiana State Fair! We have been at the Fair since 2011, plus three years prior to that, and have the opportunity to pass the word of Cannabis to a million or more Hoosiers every year.
While all of this was going on, we talked with various Indiana state Representatives and Senators, convincing many of the benefits of ending prohibition.
We also realized that many new organizations were springing up in Indiana to join in the fight for relegalization. Various activists had been exchanging ideas on a Facebook group, but many activists realized the need for coordination between the various orgs. Indiana NORML called a summit for Hoosier activists in September. The outcome of that was the birth of the Indiana Cannabis Action Network. Indiana NORML is proud to work with groups like the Indiana Department of Cannabis, Southwest Indiana NORML, the Indiana Medical Marijuana Advocates, PUC NORML, Indianapolis Dads for Marijuana, Indiana Medical Cannabis Health and Wellness, Indiana Veterans for Medical Marijuana and other groups and individuals. The Indiana Cannabis Movement is moving across the state.
We now face the 2014 Indiana General Assembly. We know there will be a decriminalization bill and a Hemp bill at least, and we know we have more friends in the legislature than this time last year. We have a poll conducted by WISH-TV and Ball State University showing that 78% of Hoosiers want Marijuana taxed and regulated. We have Colorado and Washington breaking down the walls of prohibition. We have the nation of Uruguay relegalizing. We have the first signs of the federal government backing down. We have more support than ever before.
Will the Indiana Legislature have the courage to move forward? We face many powerful adversaries, with considerable resources at their disposal. Pharmaceutical concerns, the private prison industry, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, all of whom have vested interests in maintaining prohibition have deep pockets. But the State of Indiana still spends approximately $150 Million every year locking up pot smokers, whereas some communities in Washington and Colorado are showing great savings and sales projected to be upwards of $45 Million dollars in Denver alone, the first year out. Arizona, a state not known for its acceptance of medical Marijuana, will show sales of $40 Million.
There are no valid arguments against relegalization. Will the Indiana government have the courage to do the right thing? We will see.
Indiana NORML will be in the forefront of the effort towards relegalization. 2014 is going to be a very interesting year!
I would like to thank the Indiana NORML Board of Directors for their intelligence, foresight and perseverance in advancing the cause of freedom in Indiana: Vice Chairman Bill Martin, Secretary Janie Westermeier, Treasurer Brian Lobb, Robynn Alexander, Geri Twitty, Jack Cain, Stephanie Lucke, Janet and Mike Hogan and Founder Steve Dillon. A better crew could not be put together to achieve relegalization in Indiana.