Chronology of Indiana Marijuana Activism

A Chronology of Indiana Marijuana Activism

By Neal Smith

Foreword: I have been fortunate to be one of those at the heart of the Marijuana Movement in Indiana from the beginning. I joined pioneers like Stephen W. Dillon, David Zintel, Geri Twitty, Joh Padgett and others in doing whatever possible to advance the cause of the health, well-being and economy of Indiana through Cannabis/Hemp/Marijuana.

The first evidence of Hemp in Indiana goes back to 1821 when freed slaves came north and settled in the northern Indiana communities of Kouts and New Liberty. Hemp was so common in parts of Indiana that not a whole lot has been written on it. It was, in the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s, as common as dandelions. My father, H.E. Smith, told me his family farm in Hancock County had two patches of Hemp: One for their clothing and one for “The men to smoke after a day in the fields.” Indiana played an important role in the “Hemp for Victory” period of World War II, producing about 400 thousand acres of Hemp, Jasper County being honored by the United States Department of Agriculture for their production.

Indiana first made Marihuana (sic) illegal in 1913, though the laws were generally not enforced until the federal passage of the Boggs Act in 1952. Of course by that time, “Reefer madness” had been accepted as gospel in Indiana, as in all of the states.

Indiana is a very conservative state; its people very stubborn and resistant to change even when that change is prima facie good for them. Once change is made, it is accepted as if they had been waiting for it all the while. It has only been since 2010 that Hoosiers have started to open up to the idea of relegalization, which is evidenced by informal polls done by WRTV-TV, Indianapolis. Two polls, one in 2011 and one in 2012, indicated 56% of those in Central Indiana want Marijuana relegalized. It’s becoming more widely known that Indiana spends $150 Million dollars per year to lock up pot smokers, and the attitudes against Marijuana are slowly changing. It is also being understood the millions of dollars of revenue both public and private and the tens of thousands of new, green jobs that will be had because of a legal Hemp/Marijuana market.

One of the main reasons that Marijuana reform has taken many decades is the refusal of the mass media to adequately and accurately cover the issues involved. Some TV stations have gone out of their way to put Marijuana in the worst light possible, such as coverage of a grow seizure with a reporter holding up a scraggly, improperly grown plant and claiming the street price of that plant is $1,500. Occasionally, a station would do an hour “Public Affairs” program with someone from Indiana NORML and run it at 6:00 A.M. Sunday morning. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that the internet became a way to make an end-run around the mass media. Since the uptick in national discussion of Marijuana-related issues, local media has been somewhat more friendly, though definitely not on our side…yet.

This shift in thinking is due, in part, to the changing attitude across the country but I believe moreover that the work of Hoosier activists over the years is finally paying off. This chronology shows that progression.

From the time period of 1989 through the present, Indiana NORML, Indiana Cannabis Action Network, Freedom Fighters and various individuals have printed flyers, staged demonstrations, addressed crowds, worked one-on-one to change minds about Marijuana. The Indiana effort has been most hampered by the lack of money. We have worked around that with small and in-kind donations and a desire to advance the cause of freedom.

Looking ahead, we anticipate legislation being introduced once again in the Indiana Senate. It may be just a simple decriminalization, replacing jail time with small fines, a “Medical necessity” defense, which Indiana once had, and a relegalization of Hemp. Much of the time spent by Indiana NORML and, after 2010, Relegalize Indiana PAC , has been spent working the politics of relegalization, building political support and continuing public education. It’s hard to record that ongoing effort in text. But without these efforts, we would not be on the verge of the most significant changes in Indiana Marijuana law since 1976.

1967 – Alan Deck opens “The Kinetic Dormouse,” Indianapolis’s first head shop, in Talbot Village.

1968 – Karma Records opens two stores in Indianapolis. Sells records (including underground recordings), posters, incense, rolling papers, hand pipes and bongs.

1972 – First pro-Marijuana rally in Indiana is held in Dunn Meadow at the Indiana University, Bloomington campus. About 150 attend.

1973- Stephen W. Dillon, David Allison and Steve Allen attended a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in Washington, D.C. and were inspired to form Indiana NORML.

1974 – Stephen W. Dillon, David Allison, Ken Gigax, Carl Good, Steve Allen and Letty Wingeter officially affiliate with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Allison Chaired the chapter until 1977. Dillon and Allen Co-Chaired. Dillon became Chair in 1979 and remained Chair until 2010 when Neal Smith became Chair. Indiana NORML is one of the oldest state chapters in the organization.

1976 – Marijuana laws are changed to reduce the penalty for possession of 30 grams or less as a Class A Misdemeanor. Penalties still include up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

1989 - Dharma Emporium, an esoterica store run by David Zintel of Indianapolis, begins sponsoring Marijuana reform activism, staging rallies and sponsoring Jack Herer’s “Hemp tour” three times. “Hempbreak,” a Hemp clothing and jewelry home-based factory is formed by Roger (Buttonman) Baker in New Albany, Indiana. First handmade Hemp rope made in the U.S. since World War II.

1990 – Indianapolis NORML is formed, works in tandem with Indiana NORML. Dharma sponsors “Hemp tour,” with Jack Herer. April 20-22: 1st Hemp festival, Tall Sycamore, Logansport, Indiana by Geri Twitty. Green Panthers, Gatewood Galbraith, Ben Masel among those in attendance.

1991 – Local chapter of “Freedom Fighters” formed. Dharma sponsors third “Hemp Tour.” April 19 – 21: Second Hemp festival at Tall Sycamore, Logansport, Indiana by Geri Twitty. Indiana NORML begins Fully Informed Jury Awareness campaign.

1992 – Indiana Cannabis Action Network (ICAN) formed by Neal Smith and Mark Brandum. Assembles a number of Central Indiana activists. Produces nation’s second television series, “Hemp, Environment & You” shown on Indianapolis cable outlets. “Green Power” formed in Louisville, KY; has several Southern Indiana members. Indiana native Casper Leitch starts the first Marijuana TV series, “Time 4 Hemp.” April 17 – 19: Pine Lake, near Pendleton, Indiana. Tornado hit opening night, taking out a nearby Meijer store, but cars coming into event, even with broken windshields.

1993 – Indiana’s first Hemp museum opened in South Bend, Indiana by Max Robinson. April 16 – 18, Hemp event at Pine Lake, near Pendleton, Indiana by Geri Twitty. First fall event at Pine Lake by Geri Twitty, Sept. 2 – 5.  Indiana Cannabis Action Network (ICAN) attends an anti-Marijuana seminar given by St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis. Disrupts seminar by challenging statements made. Area hospitals stop giving seminars.

1994 – September 2 – 5: Pine Lake event by Geri Twitty. Indiana Cannabis Action Network disbands.

1995 – April 21 – 24: Shamrock Stables, Noblesville, Indiana, by Geri Twitty. Roger (Roger T. Buttonman) Baker and the “Hemp Break” in New Albany, Indiana makes the first handmade Hemp rope made in the U.S. since World War II.

1996 – April 21 to 24: Moore Property, near Bedford, Indiana, by Geri Twitty. Event became known as “Mud splash” because of the torrential rain and cold through the event. Sept. 6 – 8: Second Moore Property event by Geri Twitty.

1997 – April 18 – 20: Moore Property event by Geri Twitty.

1998 – Indiana NORML connects with other NORML chapters across the nation through the “Affiliates List,” the first inter-chapter electronic communications email list. Individuals in  INORML had been on computer bulletin boards for several years prior, but this marked the beginning of being able to work around media.

1999 – Indiana NORML starts rallies in conjunction with Dana Beal’s Million Marijuana March on the first Saturday in May. INORML continues the annual event through 2009. Flexform Technologies begins production of fiber panels made with natural fibers, including Hemp.

2000 – U.S. Supreme Court rules drug checkpoints are unconstitutional based on “Edmond vs. Indianapolis,” a case against the Indianapolis Police Department. U.S. Supreme Court ruled Indiana could either force a citizen to pay a tax of $3.50 per gram of Marijuana or could enact criminal statutes, but not both as that constituted double jeopardy. The State of Indiana opts for criminal prosecution.

2001 – Indiana Green Party co-founded by INORML Vice Chairman Neal Smith, creates an alliance. Smith also co-founds “Common Bonds,” a coalition of progressive organizations, with INORML taking a lead role. “Hemp Car” comes through Indianapolis, raises awareness of Hemp as a source of fuel. Indiana NORML takes up the case of Jeanne Horton, a nine year bedridden Multiple Sclerosis patient arrested for one gram of Marijuana and a pipe. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi demands she appear in court. Steve Dillon, attorney in the case, had Horton brought to court in an ambulance and on a gurney. Indiana NORML organizes a 200 person protest outside of the courthouse, garners much public support for medical Marijuana.

2002 – Foods Alive began retailing Hemp and Flax foods in northwestern Indiana. Indiana NORML stages the state’s first Medical Marijuana conference at Purdue University. Featured speaker was Dr. John Morgan of City University of New York and a renowned medical Marijuana researcher and proponent.

2003 – INORML applies for a booth at the Indiana State Fair, and is denied. INORML requested and obtained an Indiana Attorney General’s opinion that stated since the Fair has had political issue groups, INORML could not be excluded. Over 900 thousand people exposed to the message.

2004 – INORML has a second Indiana State Fair booth. U.S. Supreme Court ruled Indiana could either force a citizen to pay a tax of $3.50 per gram of Marijuana or could enact criminal statutes, but not both as that constituted double jeopardy. The State of Indiana opts for criminal prosecution. Indiana legislature changes Marijuana Laws to eliminate loss of driving privileges resulting from a Marijuana arrest if a motor vehicle is not involved.

2005 – INORML has a third Indiana State Fair booth. Due to lack of money, It’s the last one until 2011.

2006 – Geri Twitty opens “High on the Hill,” billed as a “One Stop Hippie Shop.” Becomes a center of Marijuana activism.

2007 – High on the Hill co-sponsors and hosts 420 event and the Global Marijuana March as well as small musical shows and gatherings through the present. Steve Eisenhauer forms South West Indiana NORML.

2010 – Bill Levin and Joh Padgett form the first political action committee for relegalization called Relegalize Indiana PAC. RLI and Indiana NORML form a formal alliance, with INORML doing education, RLI doing political outreach. Neal Smith becomes Chairman of Indiana NORML, replacing Steve Dillon who had been Chairman since 1974. Dillon also served as Chairman of national NORML for many years. He remains on both Indiana and national boards. College chapters form. Purdue NORML, Ball State NORML, IUPUI NORML and NORML at IU form.

2011 - Indiana Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) introduces what becomes a Senate Resolution commanding the Indiana Criminal Sentencing and Policy Commission to formally study relegalization of Marijuana. After an impassioned testimony by Representative Tom Knollman (R-Liberty), Committee votes 8-5 to pass to Senate. Senate Passes. Hearing held in July, with Jon Gettman, criminal policy researcher revealing the costs to Indiana of Marijuana prohibition. Indiana NORML, Relegalize Indiana also testify, as well as the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Committee does not reach a conclusion. Bill Levin, Chairman of Relegalize Indiana PAC stages the first Indiana Cannabis Awards for activists. Indiana NORML resumes outreach at the Indiana State Fair. Very favorably received. Takes more donations in than money spent.

2012 – Indiana Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) introduces S.B. 347 calling for decriminalization, co-sponsored by Brent Steele (R-Columbus). Bill dies in committee due to competition from a viciously fought “Right to work” bill. Representative Tom Knollman files a medical Marijuana bill and a Hemp relegalization bill, but neither formally is introduced due to RTW issue. Indiana NORML, RLI testify at committee hearing. Committee once again votes bill to the floor. Indiana NORML. Indiana Marijuana and related issue activists convene in Indianapolis for a forum presented by Drug Policy Alliance. As of August 3rd, Indiana NORML will again present at the Indiana State Fair. State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) intends on introducing decriminalization legislation in the 2013 session of the Indiana Legislature.

Indiana has a long history with Hemp, the non-psychoactive variety of the Cannabis plant, going back to the early days of statehood. The following is a brief timeline of Hoosier Hemp history.

Timeline of Indiana Hemp History

1775 to 1850 – White settlers bring Hemp seed, Hempen goods with them from the east.

Most Hemp in Indiana grown on small, family farms.

1817               Daviess County formed, included community of New Harmony. Daviess County “The White River bottoms have a rich, black loam, in some places slightly sandy, which will produce heavy crops of corn, hemp, tobacco and small grain, without exhaustion or requiring a change of crops.”

the factories of the town were turning out about $100,000 worth of goods a year—woolens, silks, wagons, hats, rope, and leatherwork.

Along the outside of the eastern wall of the Harmonist Cemetery, still visible as a grassy alley, is the Rope Walk. The Harmonists grew hemp, stretching it out to dry along the rope walk that stretched 1,100 feet from North Street to Steammill Street. Then they put the hemp on stretchers on either end of the walk and twisted it together to make rope.

Early 1800’s                  A rope walk existed in Oakland City, Indiana, in Gibson County.

First African-Americans form farming communities, growing Hemp among other crops.

1850                1850 Census reports issued by State shows Hemp crop declining.

1860                Census shows Hemp still not a predominant crop, but better than the 1850 report.

1870 – 1937       Hemp as a medicine becomes widely prescribed in Indiana. Cannabis is extracted into a tincture and taken by the min (2 mins =  average dose),

Eli Lilly, in conjunction with Parke Davis, develops strain Cannabis Americana at its research farm near Greenfield, Indiana.

1911               State of Indiana plants thousands of acres of Hemp in northwestern Indiana to combat bullgrass weed.

1913               Lyster Dewey, Botanist with USDA, urges stepped-up production of Hemp in Indiana because of the climate and soil type. Indiana passes first law making Marihuana (sic) illegal

1937               Congress passes the Marihuana Tax Act. Hemp still legal, but farmers must purchase a tax stamp. However, USDA refused to issue stamps.

1942               America is in WWII. Despite Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, U.S. govt urges farmers to grow up to 300,000 acres of Hemp for fiber and oil. Jasper County recognized for growing Hemp.

1951               Boggs Act passes Congress. Hemp/Marijuana made illegal. All states follow suit.

1956               The Narcotics Control Act steps up penalties for Hemp or Marijuana.

1971               Controlled Substances Act passes Congress. Lumps Hemp in with Marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance in spite of Hemp having less than 1% THC.

1972               The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is formed. First organization to oppose Hemp/Marijuana prohibition.

1974               Indianapolis attorney Steve Dillon forms Indiana NORML. Remains as Chairman through 2010.

2005               Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op says Hoosier farmers aren’t interested in growing industrial Hemp.

2011               Indiana State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Portage, introduces S.B. 192 which calls for a summer hearing on relegalization. Because of a major legislative fight over “Right to work” legislation, bill dies. However, Tallian introduces Senate Resolution 70 calling for the study. Hearing is conducted under the auspices of the Indiana Cannabis Action Network, comprised of Indiana NORML , Relegalize Indiana PAC, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and various individuals. Hearing is held on July 28 before the Crime and Sentencing Policy Committee. No report is issued.

2012               Senator Karen Tallian introduces S.B. 347, calling for decriminalization of Marijuana. Representative Tom Knollman (R-Liberty) introduces H.B. 1370 for medical Marijuana.