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Federal move to reclassify cannabis as less dangerous could prompt action in Indiana

A flag with the U.S. Department of Justice logo flies in the wind.
FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks
IPB News
The U.S. Department of Justice is proposing that marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule III drug.

The Biden administration announced this week it’s moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug. That move could put more pressure on the Indiana General Assembly to take some steps toward cannabis legalization.

The federal proposal would make marijuana a Schedule III drug — on par with ketamine, some steroids and Tylenol with codeine.

Justin Swanson is an Indiana lobbyist who works on cannabis issues. He said this latest development is just more momentum that’s been building in Indiana.

“I think the easier sell, politically, is the medical route because you’re going to hear from everyday Hoosiers whose quality of life is improved, whether mentally or physically, because of these products,” Swanson said.

Hoosier Veterans For Medical Cannabis organizer Jeff Staker went one step further — he said the state will have no choice but to take action once the drug is reclassified.

“We’ve had enough summer studies,” Staker said. “We’ve got enough medical data on its uses, especially with our veterans. Our citizens are obviously still supportive of it.”

READ MORE: What is stopping cannabis legalization in Indiana?

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Swanson suggested that the Kentucky model of legalizing cannabis for medical use is one that Indiana lawmakers could follow.

But he also argued full legalization — for medical and recreational use — is the more effective plan. He said it helps ensure the black market is eliminated.

“That’s ultimately how you unburden law enforcement,” Swanson said. “We haven’t seen many states get this right and I do think Indiana is in a position to kinda put forth the red state model on cannabis reform.”

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has been one of the leading voices against cannabis legalization, continuing to oppose recreational use. And, in the wake of the federal proposal, the chamber said it still largely opposes medical use without further testing in clinical trials to ensure cannabis is safe and effective.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.