Donald Trump has just chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate, proving bad news for those who hoped for a cannabis policy reform during the next presidency. Indiana still holds draconian drug laws, where possession of any amount of cannabis is still punishable by a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail. House Bill 1006 was introduced in 2013 as an effort to overhaul Indiana’s criminal code. A clause in the article called for lowering marijuana possession charges, where Pence refused to accept the lowered penalties and demanded a bump back up to a Class B misdemeanor for cannabis possession. Indiana’s archaic drug laws haven’t been updated partly because of Pence’s belief that cannabis is a gateway drug.
Pence’s belief goes against both scientific research and the opinions of Indiana’s majority, who in October 2012 favored for decriminalization in the Indiana Battleground Poll posed by Howey-Depauw. Interestingly, one of Pence’s more controversial laws opened the doors for a minor marijuana victory. Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected religious liberties and was protested by many objectors as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. However, the same day Pence signed the bill into law, cannabis activist Bill Levin established the First Church of Cannabis, as a protected religious group that allowed members to partake in cannabis as a religious sacrament despite its illegality within the state.
Trump has wavered between support for cannabis legalization and condemning recreational use. With Pence by his side, Trump’s opinion could possibly change. Although vice-presidential powers are generally limited to tie-breaking votes in the U.S Senate, a running mate’s voice could be powerful and influential. With Pence by his side, there’s a distinct possibility that Trump’s opinion could change. Although vice presidential powers are usually limited to tie-breaking votes in the U.S. Senate, the voice of a running mate can be powerful and influential. Pence’s anti-cannabis rhetoric could impact the future of Trump’s campaign, and might influence the administration’s drug policy if Trump were to be elected.