Lawmakers in Indiana will convene between legislative sessions to study whether the Hoosier State should change its marijuana laws. Under a bill passed into law earlier this year, the General Assembly's Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy study committee is charged with reexamining the state's approach to pot.
The bill, Senate Bill 192, gives the commission a broad mandate. It asks the commission to report back on whether the use and possession of marijuana should continue to be illegal in Indiana, and if so, what penalties and quantities related to its possession are appropriate. It also asks the commission to assess whether marijuana should be regulated and taxed like alcohol, whether Indiana should implement a medical marijuana program, and "any other issue related to marijuana."
Under current Indiana law, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, although conditional discharge is possible for a first offense. Possession or sale of more than 30 grams is a felony, with a sentence of up to three years. A second pot paraphernalia offense can also earn a three year sentence. There is no provision for medical marijuana under Indiana law.
Indiana has "draconian" pot laws, state Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes), who pushed for the study commission, told the Associated Press. "One day, I watched three young kids plead cases on possession of small amounts," Tallian said. "I thought, 'Why are we spending all of the time and money to do this?' Frankly, I put marijuana in the same category as alcohol."
Tallian said she is lining up speakers for the meeting when marijuana law reform is on the agenda.
"I've got testimony from all different groups," she said. "They keep calling me wondering when it's going to be. I had them lined up when the bill was in the senate -- medical people, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement. There are a wide range of people interested in the topic."
One of the Republicans who supported the study commission was Rep. Tom Knollman -- who aptly hails from the town Liberty -- a multiple sclerosis sufferer. He told his colleagues during debate earlier this year that he wished he could try medical marijuana to ease his pain. Knollman described himself as among the most conservative of state legislators, but said he hoped he could be a law-abiding citizen and make use of one of "God's plants."