Indiana Lawmakers Not Finished Fighting for Marijuana Decriminalization
Indiana lawmakers say they are not finished fighting against Indiana’s hard-headed marijuana laws, and that no amount of resistance will stop them from continuing to lobby for its decriminalization.
In fact, Democratic Senator Karen Tallian adamantly suggests that that she fully intends to resurrect a bill sometime next year that will ultimately serve to campaign for the reduction of the majority of marijuana possession charges, making them punishable similar to that of a minor driving infraction, such as a speeding ticket or seat belt violation.
Despite furious opposition from Governor Mike Pence, Tallian firmly believes that the bill she proposed two years ago is gaining popularity and it is just a matter of pursuing it with fierce enough convictions to give it enough of a legislative spine to stand on its own.
“Just look the polling on this issue,” said Tallian, in regards to recent statistics that indicate Hoosiers strongly support lowering marijuana penalties. “The public is in favor of this.”
However, while support for reducing the severity of the punishment for pot possession may be gaining some ground, Governor Pence seems hellbound and determined to strengthen the laws, as a rewrite to the current bill passed before a Senate committee last week, serves to increase the penalties for marijuana crime.
“The governor is the only one who’s been talking about tougher penalties for drug crimes,” said Tallian. “Across the country, the train is moving in the opposite direction.”
Many states are already moving to join the legislative philosophies of Colorado and Washington, which passed laws last year legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. However, while many Indiana lawmakers agree that marijuana offenders should not be sent to prison, House Bill 1006 didn’t end up decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, like some had hoped.
Currently, in Indiana, possession of marijuana is a felony offense with the exception of first offenses and possession under one ounce. All marijuana possession offenses were written to be charged as misdemeanors under Bill 1006; yet, Pence’s amendments all but sabotaged the bill's primary objective.
“This is Indiana’s first opportunity to do something big in criminal justice reform in 35 years,” said the legislative liaison for the Indiana Public Defender Council. “It’s perplexing that Governor Pence focused on minor drug offenses as his number one concern when we have the opportunity to reshape criminal justice in the state of Indiana.”