David Hoppe

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:: Pot at the State Fair?

Could be closer than we think

by David Hoppe

You’ll be able to buy a cold beer or a glass of wine at the State Fair this August. Finally.

The next question is: When will we be able to say the same thing about marijuana?

The State Fair’s been dry since 1947, when beer drinkers left the fairgrounds in such a mess, tossing empty bottles left and right, the people in charge decided to heck with it, and banned any and all forms of what folks once called “joy juice.”

For 67 years, this made sugar the State Fair’s drug of choice.

But one of the great Indiana stories of recent times has been the rise and boom of local beer and winemakers. Today, wherever you go in this state, you’re likely to find yourself near a craft brewery or vineyard.

The enterprising folks behind these operations have great stories to tell that rhyme perfectly with what the State Fair is all about. They are using the state’s natural resources to create quality products for peoples’ consumption and pleasure. In the process, they are starting new businesses, creating jobs and, in some cases, helping to revitalize communities.

They are also paying state taxes and, even better, many doctors now say having one or two drinks a day is actually salutary for your health.

Given all these good things, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the State Fair made a place at its table for Indiana beer and wine. At some point, it became easier (not to mention more fun) to say hello to reality. I mean, there’s only one dry fair left (North Carolina) across the entire country.

Which makes me wonder about pot.

State legislators didn’t just write in an allowance for beer and wine at the State Fair during their most recent session. They also passed Indiana Senate Bill 357, legalizing the production of industrial hemp. Hemp, of course, is marijuana, albeit with an inconsequential ration of THC. Hemp is good for making all kinds of stuff, from clothing to soap. It was once a significant cash crop in Indiana, until, that is, the state caught reefer madness along with the rest of the country and drove it underground.

Soon, though, you’re going to be hearing success stories about hemp farmers enhancing their incomes and saving their farms.

Meanwhile, they’ll be selling medical marijuana across our borders in Illinois and Michigan.

And in Colorado and Washington — well, local governments in those states are going to be counting up the tax revenues from all-out legalization. It’s no wonder Colorado has become the most popular tourist destination in the country.

In Indiana we’ve been cultivating our own varieties of craft-quality marijuana for years. Were we to license and legalize it, we could add a new dimension to the state’s agricultural portfolio in a heartbeat. In effect, we would be doing the same thing we’ve already accomplished with local beer and wine — saying hello to reality.