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Understanding the Criminal Justice System

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What is Indiana’s New Marijuana Reform Bill?

Right now, marijuana possession has the second-highest arrest rate in Indiana. But might that soon change?

State Senator Karen Tallian (D- Ogden Dunes) has introduced three marijuana policy reform-related bills. If passed, the bills could decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis, legalize smokeable hemp, and establish a cannabis compliance commission that would regulate all forms of legal cannabis in Indiana.

“We are now well behind the times in the State of Indiana,” Tallian is reported as saying in the Chicago Tribune. “There’s no reason on God’s earth that why we should still be arresting people for possession of marijuana.”

These bills come on the heels of Marion County prosecutor Ryan Mears’ September 2019 pronouncement that his office will stop prosecuting marijuana possession charges of less than one ounces. Under current Indiana law, the prosecutor may pursue Level B misdemeanor charges against people who possess less than 30 grams of marijuana. By law, such possession is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Ahead of the start of the 2020 legislation session, about 75 state legislators and cannabis advocates gathered as part of a pro-cannabis state-wide rally for marijuana reform. Many supporters say that THC products help them fight illness and pain, and avoid using dangerously addictive substances like opioids.

Although a 2019 poll shows that 78 percent of Hoosiers support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, the bills are unlikely the pass. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb doesn’t want to legalize cannabis use unless the federal government also legalizes it.

But Tallian says she’s going to keep pushing: “You have to keep doing things one step at a time.”

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