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Friday, December 3, 2021

Shabazz: Make marijuana legal (or at least get the process started)

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Whenever I am asked how far is Indiana away from legal marijuana, my response is 80 miles. Just hop on I-74 to Illinois. Get off on Exit 220, make a right, and go about half a mile to the Sunnyside Dispensary. You will know you are there because the parking lot will have more Hoosier plates than the Indy 500. The same can be said for Michigan.

In this legislative session, Indiana Democrats say they will push for marijuana legalization. However, as you know, they are in the super minority, so don’t expect too much to happen from them. Republicans, on the other hand, have the potential to be a different story.

A poll taken back in September shows that most Republicans in Indiana favor some form of legalization when it comes to marijuana.

The poll conducted by BK Strategies this past September shows that 52% of Republicans surveyed favored legalization for both medicinal and recreational use, while only 40% opposed. That’s compared to 65% of the general population supporting both medicinal and adult use, while only 28% opposed it. Sixty-seven percent of independents supported it, while 20% opposed it.

When it comes to legalization for medicinal purposes only, the numbers were much higher. Seventy-four percent of Republicans supported medicinal marijuana use while only 17% opposed it. For all voters, 79% supported medicinal use while on 13% were against it. Among independents, the numbers were 77-9.

When it came to funding critical spending priorities like roads and education, 72% of Republicans supported using marijuana fees, while just 10% endorsed tax increases. Among all voters and independents, the number was 71%, respectively. Thirteen percent of all voters surveyed supported tax increases while just 12% of independents did.

On the subject of whether cannabis was immoral, an overwhelming majority said no: 67% for Republicans, 78% for all voters, 85% for independent voters, 71% for regular churchgoers and 61% for Christian conservatives.

And at the end of the survey, “post-messaging” support for legal and medicinal marijuana went higher: 58-36 for Republicans, 68-25 for all voters and 70-20 for independent voters.

The results of the BK Strategies poll were pretty similar to one conducted by Indy Politics back in August. We surveyed more than 400 Marion County voters. We found two-thirds of voters (65%) support the full legalization of recreational and medicinal use of marijuana, with an additional 20% supporting the legalization of marijuana strictly for therapeutic use.

Seventy-six percent of Democrats, 62% of independents and 51% of Republicans support full legalization, with an additional 17% of Democrats and independents and 26% of Republicans supporting the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use.

The BK Strategies poll surveyed 600 likely general election voters with an additional oversample of 100 Republican voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. The Republican-specific date had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3%.

I bring this up because, with the broad support for legalized Mary Jane, there is no reason why the GOP can’t start the ball rolling on legalization. I understand the hesitancy due to federal law, but there is no reason why my Republican friends can’t start the ball rolling on legal weed, so when it does become legal, and it will, all the state of Indiana will have to do is flip a switch.

There are at least 33 states that have legalized marijuana for either recreational or medicinal purposes. That means there are at least 33 states that Indiana can look at and see exactly how the system should work.

This is also not to mention the millions in tax revenue that can be generated. And as technology develops, we will be able to determine whether someone was operating a vehicle under the influence.

So I frankly don’t see why my Republican friends won’t get the ball rolling on marijuana legalization, and it’s not rocket science. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to hit I-74; I have some “errands” to run.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, political commentator and publisher of IndyPolitics.org. You can email comments to him at abdul@indypolitics.org.

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