Democrats wanna talk pot

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath discusses the Democratic agenda for the 2015 legislative session. Photo by Erika Brock, TheStatehouseFile

By Erika Brock

The minority leader in the Indiana House said Monday the legislature should discuss whether to legalize marijuana in Indiana for medical purposes.

Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he supports the conversation because he had lost his father to cancer and he was in a lot of pain before he died. Pelath said he would have wanted his father to have access to marijuana if it would have helped.

Already, 23 states have legalized pot for medical purposes.

“People are ready to face these changes,” Pelath said.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, has already authored and filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana. “It’s time to do this,” Tallian said Monday.

In recent years, Tallian has tried with five different bills to decriminalize marijuana, but no bill has passed a committee. This year she has decided to take a new tactic by focusing on medical uses for the drug.

Senate Bill 284 would create system where people with illnesses would get a card that authorizes them to possess marijuana if a medical professional recommends it. That’s similar to systems in other states.

SB 284 would also allow universities and hospitals to do research on medical marijuana, as well as create a new agency to recommend how the system would be developed.

Tallian said the public is way ahead of the legislation. And Pelath had a survey to prove it. Pelath said he sent one out to his constitutes and asked a question about weed. He said the results show that people are tired of filling Hoosier jails with people charged with marijuana crimes.

But it’s not clear where the legislation is headed.

“We need to be informed about it, but I don’t know how much traction it will get,” said Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis.

SB 248 has yet to be assigned to committee, but Tallian is “hopeful” that this is session where it will be brought to the floor.

Erika Brock is a reporter for, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.


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