Good day to you ladies and gentlemen, pleased to meet you. My name is Bill Levin, and as the Chairman of the Re-Legalize Indiana PAC, and Political Director for Indiana NORML, I thought I’d start off this blog with a report of the state of the Hoosier state, as it pertains to medical marijuana, decriminalization and legalization.
Let me begin by stating that I am a proud Hoosier, an honest statesmen [Editor’s Note: Mr. Levin was candidate for Indianapolis City Council at Large in 2011, and was active in the Libertarian party’s gubernatorial campaign of 2012] and a man of principle: I stand for the truth.
Now being a cannabis activist in Indiana is no easy chore. We live in the buckle on the nation’s bible belt, and our arch-conservative state government is only now considering loosening the Blue Laws that prohibit selling liquor on Sunday.
Indiana has been in the news this past week, as our Governor Mike Pence decided to buck the national trend toward decriminalization and legalization, and instead lead the legislature in an effort to institute even harsher prison sentences for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The reaction to all of this here on the streets was pretty much, “Well that figures, the Gov. and the GOP are owned by the ‘pay-for-play’ prison system.” Like a mustard fart in the wind, the political stink has passed. And now folks on the frontlines are back to business, still moving product fearlessly.
We did an interesting study a few years back on the volume of blunt wrap and rolling papers that were being sold in our state, as a way to gauge the current rate of Hoosier cannabis consumption. Based on the data collected, we estimated that residents of Indiana consume 25 tons of cannabis every week. And, yes, this was after we allowed for the roll-your-own tobacco cigarette market. Based on these rolling paper sales, and assuming that each joint contained 7/8 of a gram, and each blunt 1.30 grams, and even accounting for some wastage when stoned hands ripped a paper or two out of each pack — we came to 25 tons a week. I believe the actual number to be way higher.
So while Gov. Pence is making ugly noises and signing bad legislation, there is really no “new” fear here of the new laws. Here in Indiana, we have always looked over our shoulder when sparking up. But, things are getting better.
The common wisdom is that the passage of our new laws was driven by huge political donations from the private prison lobby. Estimates are that prison lobbyists spent around $60,000 to influence our Statehouse and its various politicians, and those politicians by taking that money made sure the private prison system would be fed. With these new draconian measure, the Indiana mainstream politicians once again delivered the pork.
Why is it that some progressive states like Washington and Colorado have achieved canna freedom, while Indiana struggles? The answer is simple: support from deep pockets. Advertising and promotional money are the lifeblood of activism, and are critical to changing public opinion and political votes. Here in Indiana, we sadly have no Sugar Daddies. There is not adequate money behind any of Indiana’s several canna organizations. Between all of our groups, I estimate that we have less than $5000 in our coffers. Total. Period.
It’s hard to run an effective statewide educational program with so few funds. The movement desperately needs money to market our next set of legislative bills, which will be coming out in January. We need to raise a minimum of $100,000 just to do small target marketing in all areas of the state. Mike Pence and his big money Republicans spent $9 million on his Gubernatorial election. We will need to seriously increase our advertising budget if we are to be successful in swaying public opinion and votes.
So, if you are reading this and you want to help us with our grassroots social change, please get with me at Re-legalize Indiana PAC or with Indiana NORML NFP 501.c3.
Bill Levin is the Chairman of Re-Legalize Indiana, and the Political Director for IN NORML.