Two separate pieces of legislation that seek to significantly reduce marijuana possession penalties are expected to be debated during the 2013 legislative session.
State Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has reintroduced legislation, SB 580, to reduce penalties for the adult possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana to a fine-only, non-criminal violation. It also seeks to amend Indiana’s zero tolerance per se law regarding inactive cannabis metabolites. SB 580 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
Separately, Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) has announced he intends to introduce legislation in 2013 that would make the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana by adults a non-criminal offense. Senator Steele, who chairs the Senate committee on corrections, criminal and civil matters, told the Associated Press that he intends to include the marijuana provision in a bill that revamps the Indiana criminal code to align charges and sentencing in proportion to the offenses.
Under present state law, the possessing of up to 30 grams marijuana is a Class A criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration, a $5,000 fine, and a criminal record. Possession of more than 30 grams is a Class D felony that carries a sentence of one to three years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
According to survey data compiled in 2012 by Bellwether Research & Consulting, a majority of Indiana voters support reforming the state’s criminal marijuana laws. Pollsters found that 54 percent of voters favored removing criminal penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenders and replacing them with the imposition of a civil fine. Only 37 percent of respondents opposed this idea.
You can read NORML’s op/ed in the South Bend Tribune in favor of decriminalizing cannabis here.
NORML will continue to update you in the coming weeks as these proposals move forward. Additional information on this legislative effort is available from Indiana NORML.