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The Will of the People? Indiana Bills Tackle Marijuana Laws

In Indiana, possession of one ounce of marijuana or less carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,000. (Adobe Stock)
In Indiana, possession of one ounce of marijuana or less carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,000. (Adobe Stock)
January 24, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS - Some Indiana lawmakers are continuing their push to relax the state's marijuana laws.

At a news conference yesterday, Senate Democratic Chair Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes promoted Senate Bill 114, which would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana - an amount that currently carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.

"No more jail time, no more criminal records," says Tallian. "And you know what? This is the will of the people of Indiana. "

Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymore introduced a similar decriminalization bill in this session (HB 1048). However, he believes legalization is an uphill battle given opposition from Gov. Eric Holcomb and other top leaders.

"There's really not much appetite to really fight that fight, it seems like," says Lucas. "But it's a fight worth fighting, seeing and knowing all of the benefits that cannabis can offer."

According to data from state prosecutors, marijuana accounted for the second-highest number of arrests in Indiana in the last two years.

Senate Democrats are hoping a third bill will gain traction. SB 86 would provide a defense for the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, as long as the person has a valid out-of-state medical marijuana card.

Lucas contends Indiana is falling behind its neighbors - as Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are among the 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana.

"Anybody that's intellectually honest knows that that is going to be an issue," says Lucas. "Hoosiers who are otherwise responsible adults, traveling to a border state to do something that is legal within that state, and then come back to our state and we make criminals out of them. And to me, that's wrong."

Recreational marijuana use also is legal in Illinois and Michigan. According to a 2018 Ball State poll, 80% of Indiana adults support the medical use of marijuana, and 40% recreational use.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN