United States Representatives Greg Pence (IN-06) and Jim Baird (IN-04) are both new members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation to Congress, filling the void left by former representative Luke Messer, who lost his seat when he decided to campaign for U.S. Senate, and Todd Rokita (respectively) who did the same. With cannabis reform being a popular issue, constituents have been writing to them about the issue since the 116th Congress began in early January, and some have shared the responses they received from their new Congressperson. 

Amanda Noell, a resident of the 6th Congressional district as well a York Township Precinct committee person, wrote to Representative Pence about H.R. 420, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. He responded by dismissing efforts to decriminalize cannabis as a “marketing campaign”, and confused the merits of decriminalization and legalization with whether or not it has been FDA approved in specific forms for specific health indications. Here’s his response in full:

“Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 420, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. It is an honor to represent Hoosiers of Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn your thoughts on this issue.

H.R. 420 was introduced by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on February 8, 2019. This legislation would eliminate marijuana as a controlled substance, and mandate it no longer be considered as a dangerous drug according to the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act and the National Forest System Drug Control Act of 1986.

I understand that we may disagree on this, but I do not support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Currently, the marketing effort to decriminalize marijuana is unsubstantiated by scientific research. Both the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have yet to approve the substance as safe or effective for any indication.

As Congress reviews related legislation, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind. I truly value your input as a fellow Hoosier and hope that you will not hesitate to contact me if I may ever be of assistance. You can visit my website at www.pence.house.gov to learn more about how I am representing you in Congress.

Meanwhile Chad Padgett, who used cannabis to help him wean off opioids and treat his pancreatitis (you can read more about his story here), wrote to Representative Baird about H.R. 420 as well. Baird, who has mostly stayed mum on the issue of anything involving more than 0.3% THC, did vote in favor of an agricultural hemp bill (HB 1137) during the 2018 General Assembly session as a state representative, as well as senate bill 52, the successful piece of legislation which legalized hemp extract products in Indiana during the same year. This new response to a constituent hints at an openness to clarifying federal law and sympathy towards state-legal cannabis businesses, although it doesn’t sound like he will be taking the lead on the issue and he doesn’t offer a clear indication of where he would stand personally. Here is his response in full:

“Thank you for reaching out to my office to share your views on marijuana. The opinions of my constituents are vitally important to me.

As you may know, the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana is federally illegal. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has labeled marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance, placing it on the same level as other substances such as LSD and heroin. This scheduling is based off assessments by the Food and Drug and Administration (FDA). Currently, the DEA has concluded that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and does not recognize any accepted medical use. In January 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded guidance issued by the Obama Administration that reassured state and local governments, businesses, and individuals they could participate in state-sanctioned marijuana activities without federal interference. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) current guidance states that prosecutors “follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions”. As of January 2019, 46 states have enacted legislation legalizing marijuana or marijuana-derivatives such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil and hemp, including Indiana.

I understand the importance of clear federal regulations. Given that many states have some form of legalization of marijuana on the books, and given recent research indicating potential medical benefits of certain compounds of marijuana, such as CBD, the current state of federal marijuana law and regulation is vague. Many businesses are unable to use banks and face threats of federal prosecution for financing or selling a product that is legal in their state. Please rest assured that as your representative, I will continue to study this issue and keep your thoughts in mind should marijuana-related legislation come before Congress.

Again, thank you for contacting my office. Please continue to reach out via phone, email, or letter on any issues of importance to you. For more on my work in Congress, please visit the 4th District’s website at www.baird.house.gov

While neither response is likely to be taken enthusiastically by constituents in favor of ending federal cannabis prohibition, it can at least be noted with some solace that Representative Baird’s response, unlike that of his predecessor Todd Rokita, did not use the term “gateway” or argue that legal cannabis would impair the ability of the United States to compete in the global economy.

Have you received a response from your federal or state elected officials indicating their stance on this topic? You can help us educate constituents and advocates by forwarding the message to us. Contact us at: [email protected]