An Indiana lawmaker took the first steps this week toward decriminalizing marijuana in the state.
Karen Tallian, a state senator in Indiana, filed legislation on Monday to do just that. Under Tallian’s bill, possession of less than an ounce of pot would only be a ticketable offense accompanied by a small fine and, crucially, no jail time.
“We all know the governor does not want to legalize marijuana, but there is no longer any justification for arresting people for possession,” Tallian said, as quoted by NWITimes.com. “I am hopeful that decriminalization is something the whole Legislature can finally get behind this year.”
The Future of Cannabis in Indiana
The bill, which will be taken up by Tallian’s colleagues in the Indiana legislature next year, is one of three pieces of legislation filed by the Democratic lawmaker this week aimed at overhauling the state’s marijuana laws.
One of the bills would reverse what her office called a “misstep” in last year’s legislative session that made smokable hemp illegal, while the other proposal would establish a regulatory agency for any cannabis-related products.
“Indiana has to address its outdated and confusing cannabis laws,” Tallian said in a press release this week. “This legislature has been afraid to confront the entire cannabis question and takes every opportunity to stop debate. We need to move to the next level.”
The proposal addressing smokable hemp stems from a bill passed and signed into last year that made hemp a legal crop in Indiana — a step that a number of rural, agricultural states have taken in response to hemp being made legal on the federal level in 2018. Farmers in those states are eager to exploit the CBD craze that has taken off in the last few years.
Tallian said that her bill “cleans up this hemp mess.”
Her effort to decriminalize marijuana may yield the most consequential change, however. The Marijuana Policy Project says that Indiana “has some of the most draconian marijuana penalties in the country,” with possession of a mere joint punishable by a year in jail and a fine of several thousand dollars. In 2012, according to MPP, Indiana “law enforcement devoted valuable time and resources to either arresting or citing over 9,000 individuals for marijuana-related offenses, 86% of which were for possession.”
If Tallian’s decriminalization bill were to become law, Indiana would join more than 20 other states, plus the District of Columbia, that have at least partially decriminalized marijuana for various possession offenses. In her press release this week, Tallian said “there is no longer any justification for arresting people for possession.”