The 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly has begun. As you know, the issue that has gained importance and support in the minds of many Hoosiers is the regulation of cannabis.
I am writing this open letter to you with the intention of focusing on this topic.
The 2022 General Assembly Provisional Committee hearing that included cannabis last fall provided a good start to showing how much the Legislature cares about regulating cannabis in our state. The next step in cannabis regulation is a very consequential one. One of the primary responsibilities of a legislator is to protect Hoosier citizens. Creating a system to regulate cannabis is entirely in line with this important duty.
Like it or not, hemp is here to stay. Countless Hoosiers would continue to consume it illegally and dangerously without any idea what was in it. A full examination of the issue is a necessity now. Now is the time for the two-year cannabis commission. People will scoff at this idea however, and it’s a logical move. Remember, the committees created high-quality public policy initiatives such as reforming the property tax system and selling alcohol on Sundays.
The commission will reveal the best and worst practices in states that currently regulate cannabis. The committee’s mission is to create an integrated framework of product guidelines and standards to protect public health and provide consumer safety.
Indiana has the perfect soil and climate conditions for growing cannabis. Regulating hemp will provide the potential for economic influence for the state which will lead to significant tax revenues and 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs in the advanced manufacturing of hemp-based products. All sorts of industrial uses for hemp have been exposed including bricks, rope and many other products. The supply chain growth that will fuel this will be driven by what will quickly become an “agricultural renaissance” for the Indiana farming community as we begin to educate farmers about the long-term benefits of growing the hemp plant.
There is significant interest in the growth potential of the cannabis industry in Indiana. The Foundation for Uniform Cannabis Standards (FOCUS) has taken note. FOCUS was founded in Arizona by former Eli Lilly executive who spent the past nine years leading the cannabis industry’s only entity dedicated to developing third-party certified health and safety standards.
FOCUS has forged a strategic partnership with the Cannabis Industry Employers Association, a newly organized Indiana organization. The association is committed to our state through their Indiana First initiative. The intent of IFI is to foster the growth of the cannabis industry with a strong focus on statewide cannabis production through structured educational means and build consensus within key demographics and key stakeholders including but not limited to political leaders, religious leadership, farming communities, and corporate leadership.
GM: The creation of a state-sponsored commission would enable Indiana to quickly become a recognized leader in the cannabis industry and perhaps be the first state to create a framework for standards-driven growth.
Most importantly, the Indiana State Hemp Commission will be a leap forward from our current unsafe conditions and act as a catalyst for economic growth in Indiana.
Jim Merritt served in the Indiana Senate for 30 years before retiring in 2020. This column previously appeared in indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send comments to [email protected]