Another legislative session, another opportunity lost
Last update: March 27, 2015
Most Americans now support improving marijuana laws, whether it’s by reducing criminal penalties, implementing meaningful medical marijuana programs, or ending marijuana prohibition and controlling marijuana sales. Polls have shown that Hoosiers want to see that change happen in Indiana too, but unfortunately the legislature has again ignored the majority of the state’s voters and refused to change the state’s harsh laws. This year, Sen. Karen Tallian’s compassionate medical marijuana bill, SB 284, didn’t even receive a public hearing. A similar measure, HB 1487, sponsored by Rep. Sue Errington also did not advance. Please take a moment to ask your representative and senator to support medical marijuana, which can provide relief to thousands of Hoosiers.
If there is good news coming out of this year’s session, it’s that Indiana did not go backwards in its marijuana policy. Bills reminiscent of the 1980’s failed strategy of ever-increasing penalties also did not move forward, including SB 275 and SB 278, which would have greatly increased Indiana’s already harsh penalties for marijuana possession, despite research that shows that increasing penalties does not change behavior.
Given the benefits marijuana policy reform has — from allowing police to focus on real crime, to raising revenue through legalization and taxation, to improving the seriously ill patients’ wellbeing with medical marijuana — it should be just a matter of time before legislators and the governor’s office catch up to the will of the voters. You can help make change come to Indiana by subscribing to our email alerts. 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 most draconian marijuana penalties in the country. Possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000. Sadly, almost 90% of all reported burglaries, including home invasions, and over 85% of all motor vehicle thefts go unsolved, according to the state-based reports from Indiana state law enforcement to the FBI for the year 2012. During the same year, law enforcement devoted valuable time and resources to either arresting or citing over 9,000 individuals for marijuana-related offenses, 86% of which were for possession.
African Americans often bear the brunt of unfair enforcement of marijuana prohibition policies, and in Indiana, African Americans are over three times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than their white counterparts, 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.
Please consider asking your legislators to support legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol. This fiscally sound approach would increase freedom, end the possibility of disparities in enforcement of possession, re-direct law enforcement resources to real crime, and allow the state to control and generate revenue from this lucrative product.
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