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Friday, February 20, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - More on "Is ‘right to farm’ amendment for Indiana a‘right to harm?’"

Updating this ILB post from Feb. 16th, a very long, interesting story by Ryan Sabalow of the Indianapolis Star, headed "Pot farms in Indiana? Never say never," looks at the issue of what is included if the "right to farm" became part of the Indiana Bill of Rights. Some quotes:

On Monday, Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, a former state conservation officer, said he was worried that a proposed constitutional "right to farm" amendment for Indiana, authored by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, may someday prevent the state from regulating marijuana farming if the practice ever becomes legal here.

His concerns didn't seem particularly outlandish to me, or others.

Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that advocates for marijuana to be decriminalized — and regulated — said it very well might.

After reviewing the proposed amendment — Senate Joint Resolution 12 — for me, Lindsey said: "I suppose if you start to treat marijuana like any other agricultural product, I don't see anything in this language that would assume that you would treat marijuana differently."

In other words, Sen. Crider might be on to something, especially with national and statewide support for marijuana legalization consistently staying at 50 percent or more.

I've seen firsthand in my home state how sticky the regulatory issues surrounding commercial marijuana growing can be.

About three years ago, I moved to Indianapolis from rural Northern California. There were times during my six years as a reporter for the Record Searchlight newspaper in Redding, Calif., that it seemed like all my colleagues and I wrote about was marijuana farming. * * *

The impoverished, rural region where I lived and worked often had high unemployment rates. With cannabis permission slips so easy to get, many turned to farming marijuana to make a living.

I was told that during the beginning of the pot boom — before the market grew saturated with marijuana — a well-maintained, backyard grow might produce $50,000 or more of pot in a single season.

Lured by the promise of easy cash, mini pot farms sprouted up in neighborhoods and subdivisions all over the place. Some neighborhoods smelled stronger than a Cheech and Chong fan club meeting. Many neighbors found the ever-present smell of all that marijuana nauseating. * * *

Imagine, as Senator Crider does, if Indiana marijuana proponents ever argued in court that under Steele's amendment, pot was just another "diverse farming and ranching practice" free from new state laws "that unreasonably abridge" a farmer's rights.

Steele, meanwhile, laughed off Crider's concerns at Monday's hearing before the Senate Agricultural Committee, which overwhelmingly passed the amendment with Crider issuing the only Republican "no" vote.

The Bedford Republican told Crider that there's no way marijuana could ever be legal in Indiana.

I'm sure 10 years ago [ILB: or 2 years ago!], a great many Hoosiers would have said same-sex marriage would never be legal in Indiana either.

Look at how that turned out.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 20, 2015 09:19 AM
Posted to Indiana Government