INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Lawmakers in Indiana will consider several marijuana-related bills as the legislature convenes for the 2014 regular session, in a state that last year unsuccessfully tried to increase marijuana penalties.
Several bills have already been introduced in both chambers of the legislature to allow a medical necessity marijuana defense, reduce marijuana penalties, and to allow Indiana’s farmers to grow industrial hemp.
Senate Bill 314, introduced Tuesday by Senator Karen Tallian (D), would reduce the penalties of possession of up to two ounces from a criminal misdemeanor, currently punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine to a Class C infraction. In Indiana, a Class C infraction carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine without jail time or a criminal conviction.
Senate Bill 314 would also authorize the cultivation of industrial hemp, and legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for academic research.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Corrections & Criminal Law.
House Bill 1185, introduced by Rep. Sue Errington (D), wouldn’t authorize the use of medical marijuana in Indiana, but it would allow for a medical necessity defense to be used in court by anyone caught possessing marijuana.
If passed, the bill would allow “a defense to prosecution for marijuana possession if the person who possessed the marijuana did so under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner who acted in the scope of the practitioner’s professional practice.”
While stopping short of authorizing the possession and use of medical marijuana, the bill would provide some protection for patients caught possessing marijuana, allowing them to introduce testimony in court from their doctor to justify a medical need for marijuana, which could result in charges being reduced or dropped.
The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code.
In addition to Senate Bill 314, a stand-alone bill to authorize industrial hemp cultivation in Indiana has been filed in the Indiana Senate.
Senate Bill 357, introduced by Sen. Richard D. Young (D), would authorize the Department of Agriculture to license the cultivation and production of industrial hemp, pending federal approval. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
The bill would also licensing requirements and authorize the Indiana State Police to inspect licensed hemp crops for compliance with the program.
If the bill passes, the state would need to apply to the federal government for a waiver to allow the state to grow industrial hemp, which is currently banned by the United States Controlled Substances Act. Several states have received waivers to allow limited hemp cultivation.