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Lawmakers make no recommendations following hours long cannabis legalization discussion

A person wearing sunglasses smoking marijuana.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
The chair of the Interim Study Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, said it will not offer any recommendations related to cannabis.

A legislative study committee made no recommendations after nearly seven hours of discussion on the legalization of adult-use cannabis. The Interim Study Committee on Commerce and Economic Development heard from researchers, community leaders and lawyers. Committee members were tasked with discussing how adult-use cannabis would relate to workforce issues and teen use.

Ashton Eller, vice president of Health Care Policy and Employment Law for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said federal legalization of cannabis may feel inevitable, but Indiana should wait because of the potential negative effects on the workforce.

“If it is inevitable, let’s protect an employer's right — their ability through Indiana’s at-will status — to discipline their employees if they do test positive,” Eller said.

Sen. J. D. Ford (D-Indianapolis), a member of the committee, said other states where cannabis is legal developed policies and procedures that protect employers in those instances.

“We should trust Hoosiers,” Ford said. “You know, people show up to work drunk and they are dealt with. People will show up to work high and they are dealt with.”

Additional testimony from an Indiana public defender pointed out the impact of arrest and convictions on the workforce. Zach Stock testified on behalf of the Indiana Public Defender Council. He said if everything goes smoothly during an arrest for possession someone could lose around 10 days of work.

“This is only part of the story, right?” Stock said. “I've said nothing about the collateral economic consequences of conviction.”

Stock said an arrest could result in reduced employment opportunities. He also said many of his clients get picked up by the system more than once, which can also have an impact on the workforce.

READ MORE: Business leaders launch advocacy group Indiana Cann to urge lawmakers to legalize cannabis

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Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville), chair of the study committee, said it will not offer any recommendations related to cannabis.

“We have a lot of competing opinions in this room,” Baldwin said. “If we want to be here until midnight, I don't think we'll gain consensus. And so as the chair, I'm saying we're not going to recommend anything associated with that last topic.”

The vice chair asked Baldwin to consider a recommendation on regulating hemp or CBD products that are already legal in the state. Baldwin said he would “rather not” have any recommendations on hemp or cannabis.

When it was time to vote on a final report that included recommendations on other issues, two members objected to the lack of recommendations on cannabis. Both voted “no,” and the report failed by one vote.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

Abigail Ruhman covers statewide health issues. Previously, they were a reporter for KBIA, the public radio station in Columbia, Missouri. Ruhman graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.