KOKOMO – Tom Petty wrote the unofficial Indiana state song back in the 1990s:

“She grew up in an Indiana town; Had a good lookin’ momma who never was around; But she grew up tall and she grew up right; With them Indiana boys on an Indiana night …”
 
But, rather than a last dance with Mary Jane, the dance has only begun.
 
Indiana will soon face a legislative issue that will make Sunday alcohol sales and riverboat gambling seem like quaint anachronisms.  The issue that I believe will eventually rattle the halls of the Indiana Statehouse is the legalization of marijuana.
 
I know you are thinking that there is no way in Hagerstown that a conservative state like the Hoosier State will ever legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use. I’m here to tell you that it will eventually happen and the wheels of change are already starting to turn.
 
Before we go any further, it is important for me to state that I have never used marijuana or even tried it. I am no marijuana expert. Nor am I a marijuana legalization advocate. I am, however, a fairly good observer of John Q. Public and of the legislative process.  For these reasons, I feel fairly comfortable peering into my crystal ball and predicting the future.
 
As a life-long Hoosier, you get accustomed to watching change start somewhere else and then slowly move to Indiana. In my lifetime we’ve seen a slow change of public thinking and legislative action on anti-misogyny laws, the lottery, riverboat gambling, pari-mutuel gambling, off-track betting, Sunday liquor sales, banking across county lines, and LGBT rights. Change, in the halls of the Indiana legislature is like pulling teeth, but significantly more painful.
 
I remember when factory workers from Kokomo would pool their money and designate someone to drive to another state to buy lottery tickets each week. These people were going to buy lottery tickets no matter how far they had to drive. The ready availability of the tickets just across the state line made this practice only slightly inconvenient. Observant legislators saw potential state revenue slipping away across an imaginary line designating a state border. The mentality of our legislature changed from “we must avoid the scourge of gambling” to “how do we get our hands on that money?”
 
Lest I be judged as overly cynical, it isn’t always about money. Sometimes the critical mass of public opinion just overwhelms the legislature. It seemed perfectly reasonable to the Indiana legislature to pass legislation (RFRA) that appeared to deny certain rights to the LGBT community. That changed in a heartbeat when the roar of vox populi nudged our reluctant elected representatives into a rewrite of the legislation.
 
So now we come to the issue of marijuana legalization.
 
Marijuana legalization is gathering momentum around the country and soon will be knocking on those big oak doors at the Indiana Statehouse. California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and five other states have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. Twenty states, including neighboring Illinois and Michigan, have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. It would be safe to say that the Hoosier State is already behind the curve when compared to the rest of the Union.
 
As I write this I can hear my late mother say, “Just because your friends poke their eyes out with sticks doesn’t mean you have to do it!” That’s right mom. Just because those other states have legalized marijuana does not force us to do it, too. However, the expansion of legalized marijuana by other states and other countries does put the Hoosier State in a quandary.
 
Recently, I visited Amsterdam on a European vacation. I was curious to check out the ready availability of marijuana and its effects on the Dutch population. I fully expected to find a purple haze of semi-catatonic people just getting stoned while the dikes were all leaking. I expected to find marijuana cafes more prevalent than the Golden Arches and edging out Stroop Waffles as the national treat. 
 
Neither was true.
 
The Dutch people, for all of the availability of marijuana cafes, are an amazingly energetic and productive people. In a country where there are more bicycles than people, it is hard not to admire the speed and intensity at which the Dutch approach their work and life. To step off a street corner in Amsterdam is to invite death on the horns of a commuter’s bike handles.
 
The marijuana cafes are prevalent but discreet. There are significantly more pastry and raw herring shops than dope dens. You could walk down the street and catch a whiff of marijuana wafting out from the cafes, but it was not as overpowering as I had expected. The souvenir shops all sold marijuana tee shirts and what-nots, but all in all, the whole marijuana scene was pretty much understated. In the cafes you could choose from a variety of types of weed, similar to a Baskin-Robbins. They also sold baked goods like brownies and cookies laced with an herbal infusion. There weren’t long lines of stoners queued up like at Starbucks.
 
The only real indication of the overt popularity of the availability of marijuana came from an Uber driver. My wife asked him if he was from Amsterdam. He said that he lived out in the country, but moved to Amsterdam so that he could be closer to the marijuana shops. 
 
Much closer to home, the legalization of marijuana poses some interesting and powerful dilemmas. In Michigan, if you are struggling with the pain of cancer or the nausea connected with chemotherapy, you can get a doctor’s prescription for marijuana to deal with your symptoms. Legal to get relief in Niles, Michigan, but illegal in South Bend. 
 
In Colorado, as an entrepreneur, you can start a store selling recreational marijuana, pay taxes on your profits and be a proud member of the Chamber of Commerce. In Marion, Indiana, you’ll be arrested and sent to the state prison system. In California, you can smoke dope on the weekend while you watch football games and then go to work like everyone else on Monday. In Indiana, you may be tested for marijuana use and denied employment. In Seattle, you can eat a marijuana brownie on the way to the airport, fly to Indiana, and be arrested when the police dog at the airport sniffs an extra brownie in your carry-on bag.
 
As the legalization of recreational marijuana spreads ever closer to Indiana, three considerable economic issues will arise. You will read stories that our young, tech-savvy college graduates are leaving the state to go live and work in marijuana legal states. You will read stories that companies promising the employment of thousands are being denied their opportunity because of Indiana’s “archaic” laws. Finally, you will learn from your legislator about the millions of dollars of lost tax revenue that could pay for better education, health care and roads due to marijuana not being legalized.
 
All of these issues and more will rise up around the Hoosier State like wild hemp along a northern Indiana railroad track. Like gambling and Sunday liquor sales, the inexorable movement toward marijuana legalization will consume the state until our conservative home is dragged into the present.
 
The legalization of marijuana will be formulaic. The Indianapolis Star will have a story about Billy Negroni who suffers from severe migraine headaches caused by long division. The story will tell how only marijuana brownies relieve his pain. You’ll see headlines about Zip Johnson-Yablonski who has had his promising professional football career derailed by being busted at his junior prom for a cummerbund stuffed with a dime bag. WRTV will scream a story during sweeps week about the potential SAT score benefits to Indiana if pot is legalized due to fewer students taking the exam.
 
The governor will call a press conference and announce that Engulf and Devour Corporation is considering Indiana for its fourth national headquarters, but that potential drawbacks are lack of a light-rail commuter system and legalized pot for its millennial software engineers. The governor hypothesizes that legalized marijuana that is taxed would provide the funds to build a light-rail system and satisfy the employment needs of Engulf and Devour.
 
Finally, Rep. Vern Pussbucket will introduce legislation naming hemp as the state weed.
 
I am totally neutral on the subject of marijuana legalization, but I believe that it will come in the not-so-distant future. It will pick up its first critical momentum when marijuana producers hire the lobbying arms of the top four or five Indiana law firms to take up their cause. The money and favors will flow and before you can say, “They’re off!” at Hoosier Downs, they’ll be tokin’ and smokin’ from Bean Blossom to Fort Wayne.
 
Change is inevitable and I am afraid that marijuana legalization is just another societal change that will come kicking and screaming into our state. I’m going long on Doritos futures!. 

Dunn is the former 4th CD and Howard County Republican chairman.