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Indiana May Consider Decriminalization in Next Session

PHOTO Miranda Nelson


Indiana May Consider Decriminalization in Next Session

Marijuana possession is the second-leading cause of arrest in Indiana.

Indiana is going to face a problem starting at the beginning of next year: It is about to be partly surrounded by states where marijuana is legal. Michigan is set to launch its recreational pot market next month, while Illinois will open one as of January. This means Hoosiers will be traveling across state lines for legal weed and doing their best to bring some home for later. State officials are already talking about the steps they might take to prevent an abundance of interstate drug trafficking from wreaking havoc. The powers-that-be want to take a tough on drugs approach, driving every law enforcement agency they have over the edge in pursuit of a pot-free Indiana.

Yet, high-ranking Democratic lawmakers have a better idea. They want to eliminate the criminal penalties for minor marijuana possession and give both the cops and the average pot-smoking citizen a break.

Although the higher-ups have essentially put the kibosh on the idea of Indiana going legal anytime soon, some state legislators are hoping they can get a decriminalization bill through the legislative process in the next session. The goal, at least at its most basic level, is to prevent people from going to jail for merely having a plant that well over half the nation has legalized for medicinal and recreational purposes. They want this offense treated a little less like a serious crime. Therefore, lawmakers are calling for pot possession to be treated as a minor infraction.

This would give local and state police the authority to write a ticket for some marijuana offenses and be on their way.

“For simple possession of minor amounts of marijuana you will not go to jail,” Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane told the NW Times. “You will still be held accountable within the judicial system, but it will become an infraction and not a misdemeanor as it currently is.”

Marijuana possession is the second-leading cause of arrest in Indiana. The situation is only going to get worse in the coming months with so many Hoosiers having access to legal weed within driving distance. Somewhere around 15 of the state’s 92 counties will be in close proximity to legal markets.

Lawmakers are concerned that the state is going to spend an exuberant amount of tax dollars busting and prosecuting droves of marijuana users. This will lead to more overcrowding in the jails, they say, which is a problem the state could do without. Right now, it is nothing for a low level, non-violent marijuana offender to be given up to 18 months in jail for their indiscretions. Fortunately, some of the state’s prosecutors, like Marion County’s Ryan Mears, are doing their best to handle these cases in a manner that doesn’t involve jail time. If you ask Mears, there are bigger fish to fry.

“I’ve been a prosecutor for 12 years,” he told the Indianapolis Star. “I have the experience of seeing what causes violent crime. And over the course of 12 years, I can tell you, small amounts of marijuana is not our problem.”

But it’s going to take a change in the law to get all of these hatchet men and women to follow suit.

And that’s easier said than done.

The Republican-dominated legislature is going to need some convincing before this type of proposal even gets its consideration. It’s no secret that these goons have done everything in their power over the past several years to prevent any pot-related measure from getting a fair shake. It’s not just them, but Gov. Eric Holcomb, a man who admits to smoking weed himself back in his bro days, isn’t at all keen on bringing Indiana into the cannabis universe. It’s the same old objections with this guy: Marijuana is a gateway drug that will spin little Hoosiers into full-grown drug fiends.

For the record, the same federal government that continues to uphold a prohibition standard admits that weed isn’t necessarily a gateway to harder drugs. It’s actually “alcohol and nicotine” that are “more likely to inspire people to use harder substances,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Nevertheless, Holcomb wants to wait until the federal government changes the law on its end to move in the direction of a taxed and regulated pot market. And even then, the law would probably only allow medicinal use. Still, it will be difficult for lawmakers to deny the problems concerning interstate drug trafficking, which could make them more open to the idea of decriminalization.

There are no guarantees, however, that the Republicans will listen to common sense. But if they open their ears even if only for a second, Lanane has a message for them: “Stop clogging up our jails, stop clogging up our judicial system by putting people in jail for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

TELL US, do you live in a place that still criminalizes minor marijuana possession?

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