Sen. Tallian’s effort to improve marijuana law frustrated by leadership

State Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) championed sensible marijuana-related legislation during the last session when she introduced SB 580. The bill would have established a medical marijuana program, lowered the penalty for possession of small amounts marijuana to a civil offense similar to a traffic ticket, and amended the state’s unfair and unscientific per se drugged driving laws related to THC. Unfortunately, Sen. Mike Young (R-Madison County), chairman of the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, refused to hold a hearing on the bill, ending the bill’s chances of moving forward before the session ended.

There are signs that the politics at the state capitol are changing, however. Conservative State Sen. Brent Steele, announced his support for reducing the penalties for marijuana possession in September 2012, when he told local media that “We have to ask ourselves as a society, do we really want to be locking people up for having a couple of joints in their pocket?” And shortly before the 2013 legislature convened, then-Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell told a legislative committee he favors taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.

If you would like to see Indiana adopt a medical marijuana law, please email your legislators and ask them to support medical marijuana. Likewise, legislators around the country are now beginning to seriously consider taking marijuana off the criminal market, legalizing it for adults, and taxing and regulating it similarly to alcohol. If you support taxing and regulating marijuana for adults, make sure your senator and representative know how you feel.

There are other ways to help, such as subscribing to our email alerts and forwarding them to friends and family and submitting letters to the editor of your local paper. Also, if you are a current or former law enforcement officer, or someone who has suffered negative consequences from a marijuana arrest, such as a lost job or denial of benefits, please email us, as your voice could be particularly persuasive. Please include your 9-digit zip code in your email so we can look up your state legislators.

Learn about Indiana’s marijuana laws
Indiana has some of the harshest marijuana penalties in the country. Possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine. Sadly, over 62% of all homicides and 70% of all reported robberies went unsolved according to the state-based reports from Indiana state law enforcement to the FBI for the year 2011. During the same year, law enforcement devoted valuable time and resources to making over 13,400 marijuana-related arrests, 86% of which were for possession.

And did you know that African Americans are 3.4 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana in Indiana, even though blacks and whites consume marijuana at similar rates? For more information on how the war on marijuana is often waged unequally, check out this report by the ACLU.



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