ELKHART — Stubbornness is one of the things Bob Wilson Jr. loves about Indiana, but he says staying behind the times when it comes to marijuana laws is the wrong issue to be headstrong over.
The Elkhart man is part of local efforts to advocate for cannabis legalization, and he hopes a rally at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on Monday sends a strong message to lawmakers.
The state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is joining other groups from throughout Indiana for the “United We Stand” demonstration, starting at 10 a.m.
“There are going to be several different organizations – not all with the same goals, but enough in common that we can agree to share the stage, so to speak,” Wilson said. “Indiana needs to get with the times. I love our state. It’s stubborn and steadfast, especially in Elkhart. But some things just aren’t worth being too stubborn about.”
His own unshakable support is rooted in the quality of life benefits he said others get from marijuana, including people with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and chronic pain. He said cannabis offers a lot of health benefits without the side effects of many prescription medications.
Wilson said legalization is something Indiana residents strongly support, from farmers to law enforcement representatives he’s spoken with. He said in addition to the other benefits, the state is missing out on a lot of jobs and revenue by refusing to catch up to its neighbors.
“It’s crazy how long it’s taken our government to sit there and listen to the people they work for,” he said. “We’re losing out on a major benefit to our community and state. If the politicians can’t see that, maybe they need to be replaced. That’s why when we go down there, our message will be, ‘We’re your bosses. Listen to us, or we’ll fire you come next election.’”
Michigan and Illinois have opened the door to legal marijuana.
The first day of legal recreational marijuana in Illinois generated nearly $3.2 million in sales, state officials announced Thursday.
There were 77,128 transactions on New Year’s Day, when the law legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes took effect, according to Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker on cannabis control.
Dispensaries reported long lines the first day of sales and expected them to continue through the weekend.
“Those lines actually show there’s an incredible opportunity to grow this industry,’’ Hutchinson told reporters Thursday in Chicago. “There’s new room for new people to come in.”
By comparison, Michigan, which made recreational marijuana legal starting Dec. 1, generated $3.1 million in the first two weeks of sales.
Jason Straw, vice chairman of the Indiana chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, using the acronym INORML, said the intent of the statewide call-to-action and community action network is to force the conversation at the local level with trained and informed advocates. Volunteers are preparing to activate in nearly every local community in the state, he said.
“The response of those willing to volunteer in this effort has been tremendous,” Straw said. “These are educated and capable people from all walks of life who will articulate cannabis reform to their local communities.”
The 2020 session of the Indiana General Assembly begins Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.