With the 2018 congressional primaries right around the corner, you may be curious about where Joe Donnelly (D-IN) stands on cannabis legalization. As the only Democrat elected to a state-wide office in conservative-leaning Indiana, Donnelly is recognized as one of the most vulnerable incumbents as he seeks re-election this fall.
Before entering public service, Joseph “Joe” Simon Donnelly Sr. graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in Government in 1977 and went on to become a general practice attorney and business owner in the Hoosier State. Donnelly was elected to represent Indiana's 2nd Congressional District from 2007-2013 before winning the state's 2012 United States Senate election, a race in which he was the clear underdog.
The Queens, New York, native is notoriously thrifty and one of the most moderate members of the Senate, and throughout the course of his first term as senator he has become accustomed to side-stepping hot-button issues. He tries to stay out of the drama of Washington political arguments, often simply saying “I work for Hoosiers” rather than the president or particular political party.
However, Senator Donnelly goes against the grain of most in his party with his stance that it would not be “prudent” to legalize or decriminalize cannabis at this time. He has yet to vote on a major piece of legislation regarding cannabis , nor is he a sponsor of any marijuana-related bills, but he has expressed an inclination towards protecting the rights of states that have already legalized the herb in some way.
Senator Donnelly is happy to recognize points made on both sides of the arguments surrounding cannabis legalization as valid, but he maintains his prohibitory stance by stating that there simply isn't enough information at this time for him to consider championing major changes to marijuana policy.
Our Grade: D-
Not only does he seem to either ignore or be oblivious to the ample evidence showing cannabis has valid medical properties, but he is also comfortable taking a back seat on the issue and leave the status quo of the federal government's scheduling of marijuana in place. Until the people of Indiana demand cannabis legalization, Donnelly won't champion the reform of marijuana laws.