Neighboring states leave Indiana behind in 'cloud of smoke'

Indiana's three neighboring states - Illinois, Michigan and Ohio - have already legalized using recreational marijuana and in Kentucky, it is allowed for legal use medicinally. (Adobe stock)

Most Hoosiers are okay with legalizing marijuana -- 85% approve, according to a poll from Indiana Public Radio and Ball State University.

However, Indiana law does not allow citizen-led initiatives on the ballot.

Political experts don't see an appetite among Republicans - who hold a supermajority at the Indiana Statehouse and in the governor's office -- for giving citizens a direct voice.

So, Indiana State Democratic Chairman Michael Schmuhl suggested neighboring states have left Indiana behind in a cloud of smoke.

"And some of these states are not dissimiliar from our state," said Schmuhl. "Yes, we have our challenges. There are some sort of structures around that and some disadvantages, but direct voice for people to vote on things -- especially, when it comes to their own body and their own choices -- you would think that that would be a no-brainer."

Opponents of citizen-led initiatives argue voters choose politicians who can be trusted to make the best decisions on behalf of Hoosiers.

However, Schmuhl countered, that idea has been eroded by a single party controlling the levers of power. Republicans have held tightly to power since 2010, when Mitch Daniels was re-elected governor -- which Schmuhl pointed out gives the GOP total control of drawing lines for Indiana's congressional voting districts.

"What gerrymandered districts do is it speaks to the extremes of both sides," said Schmuhl. "That's who's going to get through a primary, is the loudest voices. Here in Indiana, unfortunately, that is folks that are extreme and on the right. I would argue that those elections aren't reflective of the average Hoosier's belief."

Schmuhl contended that some parts of the nation's democracy -- both federal and state -- are broken.

Indiana is also one of only six states where voters are allow to vote a straight-party ticket. Opponents argue this allows voters to support a party's slate of candidates without much thought.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

By Joe Ulery, Producer

Thursday December 7, 2023