The race for Indiana state senate in the 29th district features Democrat J.D. Ford alongside incumbent Republican legislator Mike Delph. This particular race is interesting for multiple reasons. First of all, it is one of only three state senate races rated by Brian Howey of Howey Politics Indiana to be a “tossup”, with all others either leaning towards one candidate, or rated as “safe” in favor of the incumbent. Secondly, it is one of the first races where an incumbent on the ballot has submitted a response to the survey alongside their challenger, giving us the opportunity to directly compare their stances on cannabis.

State Senator Mike Delph has served in the Indiana Senate since he was first elected in 2005, and fended off Republican challenger Corrie Meyer during the 2018 primary election with 57.63% of the vote. During the 2018 legislative session, Senator Delph was one of eleven state senators to vote against SB 52, the bill ultimately signed into law by Governor Holcomb that clarified the legality of low-THC hemp extract products in Indiana and created labeling requirements for hemp extract products retailed in the state.

Prior to the 2018 session, Mike Delph participated in a town hall event in Carmel, Indiana, and was asked about medical cannabis by resident Sylvia Kemp, a retired nurse that battles symptoms of multiple sclerosis on a daily basis. “Delph said the federal illegality of medical marijuana needed to be addressed before the issue can move forward,” recounted the author of a Current article about the town hall, and also added that, “Delph said he did support CBD oil for epileptic patients.” His support for hemp extract products for use by epileptic patients apparently did not translate into support for legal use by the general population.

J.D. Ford, the Democrat challenger, is making his second effort to unseat Mike Delph. Ford also ran in the 2014 election, in which he received 45.7% of the vote. Ford has a Masters of Education and also a B.S. in Criminal Justice and Political Science, and is no stranger to discussions on the issue of cannabis reform. Earlier this year, he was a guest on an episode of “What’s NORML in Indiana”, and his campaign website includes a full position statement on the issue.

In perhaps one of the most contested races in the state, voters will have the opportunity to directly weigh in on the direction they would like to see cannabis reform take during the 2019 session. Here are the responses to our survey questions from both Mike Delph and J.D. Ford:

Do you support the implementation of a medical cannabis program in Indiana to make cannabis legally available to patients for medical purposes?

Mike Delph:   “If supported by the medical community including the Indiana State Medical Association, the Indiana Hospital Association, and other medical provider organizations.  We need to hear from all of our medical experts in order to make an informed decision.”

J.D. Ford:   “I personally know people who have benefited from the recent availability of CBD oil in Indiana.   The science clearly implies that medical cannabis could have the potential to have a positive impact on issues like seizure prevention, Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorder and diabetes treatment.  Medicine derived from cannabis has the potential to improve the lives of thousands of Hoosier veterans too, just ask the American Legion for the State of Indiana.

Do you support the decriminalization of cannabis?

Mike Delph:   “This is not our most pressing area of criminal law.  From a practical standpoint, we really need the federal government to address its position before we can meaningfully do so at the state level.  For example, the schism between federal and state law has required that the industry in Colorado be cash only.  They can’t transact in our modern economy.  This will need to be addressed swiftly.”

J.D. Ford:   “In addition to the potential health care uses, the harsh penalties inflicted for possession of small amounts of cannabis has led to the unnecessary incarceration of thousands of Hoosiers and a huge waste of resources related to our court system.  Hoosiers are beyond ready to have an adult conversation with their elected representatives to reassess the impact that the current cannabis laws have had on our society.  I believe that it is time to work with law enforcement agencies, healthcare groups, and other stakeholders to legalize medical cannabis and decriminalize the possession of small amount of cannabis.”

Do you support the legalization of cannabis retail sales for personal use?

Mike Delph:   “William F. Buckley once said that this issue would depend upon society’s ability to calculate the total societal cost and the total societal benefit.  I agree with this.  We need to understand the public health impact as well as the net economic impact all around.”

J.D. Ford:   “I support a measured but progressive movement from medical cannabis to eventual personal that includes highly regulated retail sales. Hoosiers are pragmatic and will appreciate a comprehensive, fact based approach that includes scheduled progress reports to the General Assembly along this path.  I truly believe we can get to a place on cannabis policy similar to Colorado, but also understand that Hoosiers deserve a deliberate approach that brings all stakeholders to the table.”

Do you have any other statements you would like to make about cannabis?

Mike Delph:   “As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Military, I take PTSD very seriously.  If there is a role to play here we should begin the discussion.”

J.D. Ford:   “Nothing at this time. Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts!”

Wondering if you live in District 29? This map outlines state senate district 29, and you can also use this form to confirm which district you live in.