Democrats renew ballot initiative push as poll shows support for legal marijuana and abortion rights

Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor speaks during a news conference with other General Assembly Democrats on Jan. 11, 2024. (Credit: Tom Davies)

Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor speaks during a news conference with other General Assembly Democrats on Jan. 11, 2024. (Credit: Tom Davies)

Jan 19, 2024

Democrats are touting a new poll showing sizable majorities of Indiana residents supporting marijuana legalization and abortion rights in their ongoing push for citizen ballot initiatives such as those allowed in other states.

Polling results released this week by Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs found 86% support for some form of marijuana legalization and 59% support for allowing abortions in most or all cases.

Those results from the center’s 2023 Hoosier Survey are similar to the previous year when 85% supported marijuana legalization for medical or personal use and 57% supported abortion rights in at least most cases.

Ballot initiative push stymied by Republicans

Republican legislative leaders have refused to take up proposals from Democrats over the past several years for citizen ballot initiatives while pushing through the state’s near-total abortion ban in 2022 and blocking efforts for any marijuana legalization.

Senate and House Democrats have filed legislation this General Assembly session for amending the state constitution to create a process by which petition drives that gather enough voter signatures could place issue questions on the general election ballot. 

Such a process in Ohio resulted in voters there approving in November a constitutional amendment protecting abortion access and a law legalizing medical marijuana.

Indiana is among 12 states still with full marijuana bans as Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Republican legislative leaders have cited concerns about both its legality at the federal level and the impact on public safety and health.

Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor said the views of Hoosiers on marijuana and abortion were being “consistently ignored” by the Legislature’s Republican supermajority.

“When our laws directly conflict with what Hoosiers want, there’s no question that ballot measures are necessary in Indiana,” Taylor said. “It’s time for the will and the wishes of we the people, the Hoosiers of the state of Indiana, to finally be realized and finally start to take precedence.”

Poll details on marijuana and abortion questions

The Hoosier Survey poll found that on marijuana legalization:

  • 54.2% support for personal use
  • 32.2% support for medicinal use
  • 9.8% against any legalization

On the abortion question:

  • 31.3% support for legal in most cases
  • 27.8% support for legal in all cases
  • 27.2% answered abortion should be illegal in most cases
  • 10.3% responded abortion should be iIllegal in all cases

Republican legislative leaders have opposed adding citizen ballot initiatives based on the argument that General Assembly members are elected every two or four years, giving voters ample opportunity to weigh in on such issues.

Republicans haven’t advanced any abortion-related legislation as court challenges continue to the abortion ban that took effect last year.

No change in Republican stance on marijuana

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said legislators are continuing to discuss matters surrounding marijuana legalization but was clear it wasn’t happening this year.

“No, it’s not going to be the case but we’re continuing to look at that,” Bray said last week. “We’ve got several bills and there will be some conversation.”

Democratic Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie, who sponsored a ballot initiative resolution in the House, said the Ball State poll showed Republicans doing “the exact opposite of what the Hoosier majority wants.”

The data is clear, Hoosiers want access to abortions and cannabis legalization,” Errington said. “And yet, Republicans continue to go against the will of the majority with their restrictive policies.”

Tom Davies is a Statehouse reporter for State Affairs Pro Indiana. Reach him at [email protected] or on X at @TomDaviesIND.

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