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Here's what Indiana's Republican gubernatorial candidates have to say about cannabis

A closeup of a person smoking a cannabis joint.
Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News
More and more bills are filed each Indiana legislative session, by both Republicans and Democrats, to move towards some sort of cannabis legalization. But none of them have advanced.

Indiana is an island when it comes to legal cannabis — all of its bordering states have taken steps to legalize the drug in some way, whether for recreational or medical use.

More and more bills are filed each legislative session, by both Republicans and Democrats, to move towards some sort of legalization. But none of them have advanced.

Here’s what the state’s six Republican gubernatorial candidates say about the issue:

Jamie Reitenour:

Reitenour said she believes cannabis is a “gateway drug.”

“I'm just asking for people to be reasonable, to be reasonable and drive through these states and look at these billboards and tell me, do you not sense oppression in these states?” Reitenour said. “I mean, this is a real conversation for families to have.”

Reitenour said if Indiana legalizes cannabis, it will end up regretting it.

“And I do believe that Hoosier families need to stand up and say, this is not what we want,” Reitenour said. “This is not the time for this.”

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.):

Braun said he expects some form of legalization in every state within the next decade.

“My key thing would be to get with law enforcement to see what they think, because they're the ones that are gonna have to spend the time, put their lives on the line,” Braun said.

Brad Chambers:

Chambers said he hears frequently from voters on the issue.

“This is about seniors,” Chambers said. “This is about veterans who say, ‘I'm driving to Michigan every month topick up some cannabis to deal with my arthritis or to deal with whatever.”

Chambers said he supports medicinal marijuana but that when it comes to recreational use, he wants law enforcement in the conversation.

“We need to look at the other 30-something states that have passed recreational marijuana and learn what they've learned,” Chambers said. “I don't want to trade one problem for another.”

Chambers said if the state moves forward on recreational use, it will have to “reconcile” with federal prohibition of the drug.

READ MORE: GOP candidates seek to stand out in Indiana's first competitive gubernatorial primary in 20 years

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Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch:

Crouch said she “stands with law enforcement” and opposes any legalization of cannabis.

“For me, it's very personal,” Crouch said. “My mother, my brother, my sister, our daughter have all struggled with mental illness and addiction.”

Crouch said as governor, she doesn’t want to legalize another drug, but focus on helping people who are struggling with mental health challenges and addiction.

“The cost of untreated mental illness in the state is over $4 billion a year,” Crouch said.

Eric Doden:

Doden said he’s put a lot of thought into the issue, listening to people around the state and law enforcement.

“This is not the same marijuana that we had, you know, in the '60s and '70s,” Doden said. “This is synthetic marijuana that stays in your system for long periods of time.”

Doden said he worries about access to legal cannabis creating more addiction issues.

“So, I've taken a pretty strong approach that I'm not in favor of legalization of marijuana,” Doden said. “I know other people may have different perspectives, but I think what's important as a leader is that you firmly state your position and why.”

Curtis Hill:

Hill, a former prosecutor, doesn’t support legalization, whether for recreational or medical use.

“I don't believe that legislatures should wave a magic wand and characterize any substance as medical,” Hill said. “I think we have a process in this nation, like it or not, that we have substances that go before the Food and Drug Administration for clinical testing to make a determination if they're safe and effective, if there's harmful effects. What type of dosage is it? Prescription, is it over-the-counter? And if cannabis or marijuana goes through that process and is produced as an FDA-approved medication for some type of malady, I don't have a problem with that.”

Hill said he believes lives can be destroyed by recreational cannabis use. And it doesn’t matter to him that Indiana’s bordering states have gone further on the issue.

“To hell with those states,” Hill said. “We should not be following.”

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

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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.