Bill would also permit licensed production of industrial hemp
INDIANAPOLIS – A bill introduced this week by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) would remove criminal penalties and the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Indiana, and replace them with a civil citation and a fine, similar to a parking ticket.
The bill, SB 580, would also permit the licensed production of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive agricultural crop used to produce a wide variety of legal products. It has been assigned to the Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, chaired by Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis).
Under current state law, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana (approximately one ounce) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Possession of any more than 30 grams is a felony punishable by up to three years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
“An adult possessing a small amount of marijuana should not be subject to the same penalties as someone arrested for domestic violence,” said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization. “There is no justification for throwing adults in jail simply for possessing a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”
A majority of Indiana voters support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession, according to a WISH-TV/Ball State University Hoosier Survey conducted last month. Specifically, it found 53% favored decriminalizing marijuana and just 41% were opposed.
“This legislation is based in part on the recommendations of an expert committee and enjoys bipartisan support,” Riffle said. “It’s imperative that Sen. Young and his committee members honor the majority of Indiana voters who support this bill and give it a fair hearing.”
There are currently 15 other states that have removed criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. Two of those states, Colorado and Washington, have removed all penalties for adult possession and are establishing systems in which marijuana sales will be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.