Indiana Senator Pushing For Legal Medical Marijuana In State

By McCarton Ackerman 12/19/14

Sen. Karen Tallian hopes her narrowly defined bill will satisfy her ulta-conservative colleagues.

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Twenty-three states have already legalized medical marijuana and Indiana could be next. A state senator based out of Portage has announced plans to introduce a bill that will make this a reality.

Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian said her bill will be introduced at the upcoming legislative session, which calls for allowing people with specific health problems to be allowed use of medical marijuana. She has become a pot advocate for the state in recent years and introduced bills that pushed for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but those have failed to advance.

However, she believes Congress’ recent decision to prohibit the Justice Department from using federal money to prosecute medical marijuana patients or distributors who are following state law has opened the door for her.

"I think there is a huge segment of the population that thinks this is okay and the general public is much farther ahead than the legislature on this issue,” she said. "I'm trying something a little different. I'm hoping to get a little more sympathy to getting a hearing."

Tallian is optimistic that her bill being more narrowly defined and listing approved medical conditions will satisfy the Republican-controlled legislature. However, many experts believe that Indiana is simply too conservative to even approve a tightly controlled marijuana bill.

"It's still a long shot. In spite of our rugged individualism, I don't anticipate us being too early on that process," said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. "We are one of two states that doesn't allow Sunday alcohol sales. There are certain things that we accept as the way we operate and don't accept changes just because others have."

But for Tallian, her efforts to create change around marijuana are personal. She recalled a high school friend who was arrested for marijuana possession after graduating high school, did everything the court asked her to afterwards, but had her dreams of being a teacher dashed because of the charge on her criminal record. She is hoping to spark laws that will help others from avoiding a similar fate.

"I'm tired of that stuff," Tallian said. "I'm an attorney. I'm tired of going to court and seeing one kid after another pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, which can stay on their records."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.