INDIANAPOLIS, IN — A bill that could have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in Indiana has been killed by a committee chair who won’t allow a public hearing on the measure.
The bill, SB 580, was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) and assigned to the Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, chaired by Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis).
“It’s dead for this year,” Sen. Young said, telling WISH-TV that he will not allow the bill to receive a public hearing.
The bill would have removed 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 would have also allowed the licensed production of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive agricultural crop used to produce a wide variety of legal products.
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.
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.
“We will get a hearing on this bill,” Sen. Tallian said Monday.
Sen. Young did say he would work with Sen. Tallian throughout this year to “learn a little bit more on this issue,” which could indicate that it may be considered for a hearing in the future — but not until 2014 at the earliest.
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. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana.