With the Republican National Convention set to kick off next week in Cleveland, the news is abuzz with speculation about Donald Trump's potential running mate. But the staff at Salon magazine say they already know who The Donald's VP will be: Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
That's troubling news for voters passionate about cannabis reform. Trump isn't exactly pro-marijuana. But he does support medical marijuana, and he's in favor of letting states decide the legality of recreational use.
Mike Pence? Not so much. Here's where he stands on cannabis.
The state of cannabis in Indiana
Downtown Indianapolis, capital of Indiana. Even if the public is largely onside with legalization, legislators have continued to pass and uphold restrictive laws on cannabis consumption and possession.
Mike Pence is governor of one of the least cannabis-friendly states, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
"Indiana has some of the most draconian marijuana penalties in the country," the MPP site says. "Possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000....[In 2012], law enforcement devoted valuable time and resources to either arresting or citing over 9,000 individuals for marijuana-related offenses, 86% of which were for possession."
And Pence has supported the state's tough stance on cannabis. When legislators tried to pass a bill in 2013 that would have relaxed the penalties for cannabis possession, Pence spoke out against the legislation. "I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties," he said at a press conference.
Legislators reworked the bill to increase penalties for minor marijuana offenses. After even more revisions, the bill's final version softened some parts of the law while tightening others. But Indiana remained woefully backward on the issue, according to State Senator Karen Tallian (D).
"Just look the polling on this issue," she told the Kokomo Tribune in 2013. "The public is in favor of this. The governor is the only one who's been talking about tougher penalties for drug crimes. Across the country, the train is moving in the opposite direction."
Tallian has also fought for years to pass a bill to legalize medicinal cannabis use in Indiana. But her last attempt died before even getting a public hearing in 2015. Which wasn't surprising to Andy Downs - a political scientist at IPFW University in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
"We are one of the two states that doesn't allow Sunday alcohol sales," Downs told Bustle in 2015. "There are certain things that we [Hoosiers] accept as the way we operate and don't accept changes just because others have."
Pence becomes an unlikely reformer
"We simply cannot arrest our way out of the problem," Indiana Governor Mike Pence said. "We have to recognize that we also have to address the root causes of addiction and focus on treatment."House of GOP / Flickr.com
Some Hoosiers might be set in their ways. But Pence isn't. In September 2015, he held a press conference to call for a "fresh approach" to combat drug abuse in Indiana, shifting from being tough-on-crime to a harm-reduction approach.
"We simply cannot arrest our way out of the problem," Pence said. "We have to recognize that we also have to address the root causes of addiction and focus on treatment."
To do that, he used his executive powers to create the Governor's Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment, and Prevention - a group of healthcare professionals, law enforcers and other stakeholders that have been brainstorming solutions to the state's drug problem.
But don't expect the group to propose cannabis legalization as a way to suppress the black market and control marijuana consumption. Bernie Carter - a task-force member and local prosecutor - helped Pence introduce the research group by offering tough talk about marijuana...and Kanye West.
Carter said that legalization in Colorado has made Hoosiers more permissive about marijuana. He told the media that locals are thinking, ''Maybe I should get me a couple joints. How can I get me a couple sticks?'"
And Colorado isn't the only bad example, according to Carter. He also called out hip hop star Kanye West, who admitted to having a puff before the Video Music Awards in 2015.
"That sends a strong message [in terms of normalizing marijuana use]," Carter said - as though that were a bad thing.
Banner image: Mike Pense, governor of Indiana,: House GOP / Flickr.com