It has been said that Indiana will be one of the last states to legalize marijuana. The state is run by a bunch of holy-rolling Republicans who believe weed is the root of all evil. And they just can’t seem to wrap their heads around marijuana being good for the people and the state’s economy.
Therefore, as long as the ultra-conservative beast continues to bed down in the Capitol, weed isn’t going to make any headway. However, some state lawmakers plan to hold the anti-pot goons accountable in the next session. They aren’t asking for full-blown legalization — like neighboring Illinois and Michigan — just the elimination of criminal penalties for those caught in possession.
Indiana Senator Karen Tallian recently introduced legislation aimed at decriminalizing marijuana statewide. The bill, which is similar to others she’s supported over the years, would allow those caught in possession of up to two ounces to be dealt with through a ticket rather than the criminal justice system.
As it stands, Hoosiers caught in possession of any amount of cannabis can be convicted of a misdemeanor, punishable with up to 180 days in jail and fines reaching $1,000. If they have as much weed as Tallian believes should be decriminalized, they can be slapped with a level 6 felony and do as many as two and a half years in jail and pay up to a $10,000 fine.
Police all across Indiana have enjoyed busting pot offenders for decades. After all, it’s a lot easier than chasing down murderers, rapists and sex traffickers. But the state has continued to incentivize law enforcement to pursue pot offenders with a vengeance. Even recently, as nearby states have moved to legalize marijuana, cops in various parts of the state have implemented new roadside tools that will make it easier for them to arrest people for marijuana-related offenses. Indiana courts see more than 10,000 pot offenders every year, according to data compiled by Jon Gettman, associate professor of criminal justice at Shenandoah University.
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“It’s a stupid waste of time that we do this … we give young people criminal records for something that is legal in, what, a third of the nation,” Senator Tallian told WDRB.
Governor Eric Holcomb is a large part of the problem. Even though he admitted a few years back that he smoked marijuana himself during his days as the chapter president of Phi Gamma Delta while attending Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, he still flat out refuses to even consider marijuana legalization. We’re “just not willing to look at that, especially since it is illegal right now according to the federal government,” he told the Northwest Indiana Times in 2019.
What would have happened to Frat Boy Holcomb if he had been arrested for possession back in the day? He wouldn’t have become governor, that’s for sure. He would have had trouble getting loans and school grants. He also would have found it more difficult to get a decent job later in life.
The conviction would have haunted him to the bitter end. That’s the whole point of Tallian’s mission to decriminalize the herb across the state. Even if lawmakers don’t want to climb on the legalization bandwagon, jumpstart a stagnant economy, create jobs, and collect millions in tax revenue, the least they can do is stop branding thousands of non-violent Hoosiers as criminals.
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“Arrests for marijuana possession made up 45% of all drug arrests from 2010-2018 in Indiana. Contextually, Black Hoosiers are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for the possession of marijuana,” Tallian said in a statement published on Facebook. “Our neighboring states have made efforts to address unjust marijuana laws, and it’s time for us to do the same.”
So what are the chances of the Indiana General Assembly actually considering Tallian’s proposal? It’s probably not going to fare well. Rather than take a more common sense approach to marijuana-related offenses, Republican legislators have been pushing prosecutors to get tougher on pot. Part of the reason is to make sure there are consequences for those who dare smuggle weed in from legal states.
However, some prosecutors, including Marion County prosecutor Ryan Mears, have said that they don’t intend to charge any adult caught with up to an ounce of weed. It might be this butting of heads that forces some attention on the issue this session. But, in the end, don’t hold your breath for Republican lawmakers or Governor Holcomb to budge.
They probably won’t.