Conversations about changes in laws governing marijuana in Indiana are underway as a handful of other states have legalized the drug. In fact, the Indiana State Police Superintendent made several comments about the promise of proposed legislation in 2013 during a State Budget Committee hearing Tuesday.
"Essentially, the state's top cop comes out and says we should seriously consider legalizing marijuana. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people who are shocked and surprised that he's saying that," said Andrew Maternowski, an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney who is also a representative of NORML, a national organization that promotes a change in marijuana laws.
"My first objective is to be able to say the word 'marijuana' in the Indiana Statehouse and not have everybody get completely flustered," said State Senator Karen Tallian, (D) Portage, last year as she pushed legislation that would bring lawmakers together to discuss marijuana's effect on the criminal justice system in Indiana.
Tallian claims marijuana offenses are taxing Indiana courts and jails unnecessarily. She will be pushing another bill in the 2013 legislative session as is Republican Senator Brent Steele, (R) Bedford.
His office released a statement:
“During the upcoming 2013 session, state lawmakers intend to draft legislation updating Indiana’s criminal code. Part of this conversation includes evaluating whether current sentencing policies appropriately align with the crimes committed. It also involves finding the best ways to utilize the state’s limited resources."
“One such proposal would make possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana – which is currently a Class A Misdemeanor – a Class C Misdemeanor, subject to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. I have suggested adding one step to this proposal, and that is making possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a Class C Infraction instead of a Class C Misdemeanor. A Class C Infraction carries the penalty of a fine rather than jail time.
"As a practicing attorney, I’ve seen a significant amount of state dollars spent on prosecuting and incarcerating individuals caught with small amounts of marijuana. We have to ask ourselves if this is the best use of our criminal justice resources. It’s a matter of priorities, and I believe our focus should be on pursuing, prosecuting and incarcerating people who commit violent crimes, not simply people who make poor personal decisions. This is my opinion and mine alone. I think it’s important to have this discussion and why I felt the need to bring this issue forward."
Indiana State Police declined all interviews Tuesday night. Instead a statement was released.
"Earlier today Superintendent Whitesell was addressing the State Budget Committee; this is a forum where state agency heads present their biennial budgets. This is not a forum where new laws are proposed, formulated or drafted. However, this is also an opportunity for law makers to freely discuss issues of their own concern. After presenting the state police budget proposal, Representative Sheila Klinker asked Supt. Whitesell if she could pose a controversial question related to the legalization of marijuana. Superintendent Whitesell rendered a philosophical opinion on the long-standing controversy regarding the legalization and taxing of marijuana. The Superintendent addressed some of the various legal, social and economic trappings of the controversy and recognized the theoretical argument that some hold that the substance should be legalized and taxed as it is in some states already. He finished the exchange by underscoring the fact that the State Police would respond to the issue in whatever manner the legislature brings forward. His comments were of a philosophical perspective and not the substance of a rendered official opinion. The making of such laws are not the purview of the State Police and he was not asked for an opinion in that context. Although the Superintendent personally understands the theoretical argument for taxation and legalization, as a police officer with over 40 years of experience he does not support the legalization of marijuana."
"The fact that someone at the state police feels the need to back pedal says it may be controversial, but at the same time, we've been doing it the way it's done now for 35, 40 years maybe. It's time to start rethinking," said Maternowski.
Tallian is expected to finalize her proposal by January.