The U.S. Senate could move to decriminalize marijuana. What does that mean for Indiana?

A team of U.S. senators unveiled an early version of a bill on Wednesday that could have major implications for anyone who uses, or has been punished for using, marijuana.

What effect it would have in Indiana, though, is still up in the air.

Cory Booker, Ron Wyden and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a “discussion draft” of the

Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act.

Among other things, the bill aims to decriminalize weed on the federal level, expunge the records of anyone arrested on non-violent marijuana crimes, and give anyone languishing in federal prison the opportunity to file for resentencing.

It would also slap regulations on weed products sold in legal states, allow marijuana businesses to apply for bank loans, and end the block on federal cannabis research.

Indiana reform bills:

Every marijuana reform bill in Indiana died this year except for one

Its main goal, though, is to take a small step toward reversing the discriminatory practices of a drug war that’s raged in the U.S. for decades.

“By ending the failed federal prohibition of cannabis, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will ensure that Americans – especially Black and Brown Americans – no longer have to fear arrest or be barred from public housing or federal financial aid for higher education for using cannabis in states where it’s legal,” the bill reads in part.

What it doesn’t do, though, is legalize weed across the U.S.

States would still have free reign to set their own cannabis laws. And legalization in Indiana, recreational or otherwise, has been a non-starter.

Lawmakers filed

10 marijuana-related bills

during the 2021 legislative session. They ranged from establishing a medical cannabis program to decriminalizing possession of small amounts. None of them aimed for full-on legalization.

Only one became law. It offers a defense, in some instances, for people caught operating a vehicle with weed in their bloodstream.

Indiana law:

A brief history of how Indiana made weed illegal

Gov. Holcomb – who has

admitted to smoking weed in college

– has long refused to support ratifying marijuana in Indiana as long as it’s barred federally.

“If the law changed, we would look at all the positive or adverse impacts it would have,” he said in 2019. "I'm not convinced other states have made a wise decision.”

On Thursday, spokeswoman Erin Murphy said the governor’s position remains unchanged.

A long road to legalization

Of course, Holcomb’s support will only come into play if the bill escapes the Senate.

A spokesperson for Sen. Todd Young declined to respond to the Courier & Press’ questions on the record. And Sen. Mike Braun’s office didn’t return requests for comment.

The New York Times

reported Wednesday

that Republican senators largely oppose the measure. Even some Democrats may be too squeamish to vote yes. And minutes after senators unleashed the bill, President Joe Biden’s press security, Jen Psaki, said the

president remains opposed to federal legalization, too


The U.S. House voted to decriminalize marijuana in December.

The 228-164 vote

largely followed party lines, with five Republicans voting yes and six Democrats voting no.

Eighteen states, as well as Washington D.C., have greenlit recreational use for those 21 and older. Medicinal marijuana, meanwhile, is allowed in 37 states. And this spring, a

Pew Research poll

found that 91 percent of Americans favored legalization in some form or another, with 60 percent supporting recreational use.

But as of right now, it doesn’t look like any of that will change things in Indiana.

Contact Jon Webb at