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What is stopping cannabis legalization in Indiana?

A person smoking a joint.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Republican leaders say cannabis legalization is unlikely this legislative session.

Indiana is now surrounded by three states that have legalized recreational cannabis, but attempts to legalize it here haven’t made it far. One lawmaker says personal perceptions are stopping Indiana from joining the 38 other states with some form of legalization.

Republican leaders say cannabis legalization is unlikely this legislative session.

Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) said Hoosiers have been asking lawmakers for cannabis legalization or decriminalization, but some lawmakers are avoiding the issue.

“You've got the elected officials who are unwilling to have the conversation and you've got some of these other powerful lobbying groups that are continuing to block conversation, block bills from getting a committee hearing,” Ford said.

READ MORE: Lawmakers make no recommendations following hours-long cannabis legalization discussion

Find more answers on engaging with state government by visiting our project: Civically, Indiana.

Ford said the furthest a bill on cannabis legalization has gone in Indiana was last year when Senate Bill 237 was given a committee hearing. He said he doesn’t want to “rush into anything,” but it’s time for lawmakers to have this conversation.

“It's just people's perception that this is a taboo topic to talk about, that it's a drug and we can't, you know, have an adult conversation about it,” Ford said.

Ford said Indiana’s lack of citizen-led ballot initiatives prevents Hoosiers from taking the path to legalization Ohio took in November. Both chambers of the General Assembly have proposed legislation related to cannabis legalization in 2024, though lawmakers have proposed bills for at least the last 15 years.

Indiana's 2024 legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 8.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at

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.