Legislation to decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis has been filed in Indiana by State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes.
Sen. Tallian has been fighting for cannabis policy reform in the Hoosier State since 2012. Indiana, a red state where it remains illegal to catch a fish with your bare hands, is known to have some of the most stringent penalties for marijuana in the country.
Previous marijuana policy reform legislation introduced by Sen. Tallian has not even received a hearing, but this year is different. Scientific research is mounting as ten states have legalized recreational use, and 33 have legalized it for medicinal purposes. Michigan, Indiana’s neighbor to the north, voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the latest election. Illinois has a successful medical marijuana program in place already, and medical marijuana is expected to hit dispensary shelves for the first time in Ohio this week.
In March 2018, Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill to legalize CBD oil in Indiana, and support for legalization is at an all time high according to the 2018 Hoosier Survey. The telephone poll was conducted from October 2nd through the 20th of last year. Polling 604 random Indiana adults revealed that 80% of Hoosiers support either recreational or medical marijuana legalization.
“Since marijuana programs cannot be approved by a ballot initiative, it is up to the legislature to follow the will of the people,” Senator Tallian said. “Support for legalizing and taxing cannabis is at an all-time high, and 10 states, as well as Washington, D.C., have already legalized marijuana for recreational use.”
Proposed Marijuana Law
Senate Bill 213 aims to eliminate the criminal penalty for the possession of personal amounts of marijuana. This legislation would make it legal for both medical and recreational users to have up to two ounces. This bill also, “Repeals the offense of possession of marijuana, hash oil, hashish, or salvia as a Level 6 felony.”
Current Indiana Marijuana Law
Possession of any amount, including one single joint, is a misdemeanor punishable with up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possession of up to 30 grams, or just about one ounce, is a Class A misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Receiving a subsequent charge for any amount or possessing more than 30 grams the first time is considered a Class D felony with between six months and three years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Manufacturing and selling marijuana are associated with different charges. Growing or distributing up to 30 grams is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both. Any amount between 30 grams and ten pounds can be a Class D felony punishable with six months to three years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. Any amount over ten pounds is considered a Class D felony that comes with two to eight years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines, or both.
The results from Tuesday’s congressional and gubernatorial primary elections are in, and while the candidates campaigned on wide-ranging platforms, some of the results could mean a lot for state and federal marijuana reform.
Marijuana Moment put together a recap, examining where several of the primary winners stand on cannabis. While a number of other House primary elections took place throughout the country, the list below includes races where marijuana issues were relatively prominent.
Indiana U.S. Senate Primary
Republican winner: Mike Braun
During a debate last month, Braun said: “I think if a state wants to go to medical marijuana, it ought to be their prerogative.” But he also said that he was still “out on the issue” when it comes to his personal support for medical cannabis. It’s not clear based on that statement whether the businessman meant that he was undecided or opposed to reform, but he went on to say that “states are a great laboratory,” indicating that if elected to the Senate he would support efforts to scale back federal prohibition, at least when it comes to medical use.
“It’s happening right in front of us,” Braun said during the debate. “We’ll see what happens.”
Marijuana Moment reached out to Braun’s campaign office for clarification. This story will be updated if a response is received.
Of note is that Braun beat out two Republican challengers who have voiced steadfast opposition to marijuana legalization and have consistently voted against reform amendments as U.S. House members.
Democratic incumbent: Sen. Joe Donnelly
The incumbent senator earned a “D” rating from the pro-legalization group NORML due to his consistent failure to support federal legislation to reform marijuana laws. In 2007, during his time in the House, he voted against a measure to prevent federal interference in states where marijuana is legal. According to Civilized, Donnelly has said that it would not be “prudent” to legalize or decriminalize cannabis.
Ohio Gubernatorial Primary
Democratic winner: Richard Cordray
Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been sheepish about his personal stance on marijuana legalization. However, he’s been critical of Ohio’s medical marijuana program, which he feels was poorly implemented.
In a statement sent to Marijuana Moment last week, a spokesperson for Cordray said that he’d “fix the botched implementation” of the program” if elected and would also respect “voters’ right to propose a new [recreational marijuana legalization] referendum” and “follow the will of the voters if it comes to a vote.” The spokesperson declined to comment on Cordray’s personal feelings about recreational legalization.
Republican winner: Mike DeWine
While DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, has been relatively quiet about his stance on medical marijuana, he did say in 2014 that he thinks legalizing the plant for recreational purposes would be “a mistake.”
At a press conference with law enforcement, he acknowledged that legalization could take the substance off the black market and lead to fewer deaths from gang violence. That said, he still felt legalization would send a bad message to youth, saying that experts informed him that cannabis was a gateway drug to heroin “in some cases” and expressing concern that full legalization would mean “more people killed by someone who is high on marijuana” on highways. He’s also rejected severalpetitions to change that state constitution with respect to cannabis reform—though he’s attributed those rejection decisions to issues with the language of the petitions, not the underlying policy issue.
Ohio U.S. Senate Primary
Republican winner: U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci
The U.S. congressman hasn’t said much about marijuana, and he also hasn’t supported federal legislation to reform the country’s cannabis laws—including measures to protect legal states from federal interference, provide marijuana businesses with banking access, or allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend cannabis to patients.
In a recent interview with the Dayton Daily News, he did provide some insights into his perspective on the issue. Renacci said that he was “closely watching” Ohio’s medical marijuana program and voiced clear opposition to recreational marijuana legalization.
Democratic incumbent: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown
Like many career politicians on Capitol Hill, Brown’s position on cannabis has evolved over the years. But that hasn’t necessarily been reflected in terms of introducing or co-sponsoring reform legislation.
Earlier, this year, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo—which offered some protections against federal intervention in states where marijuana had been legalized—he spoke out, arguing that the Sessions should “mind the store on other things” and “put his efforts into this terrible addiction issue about opioids and worry less about medical marijuana.” However, Brown has also peddled the debunked gateway drug theory that marijuana leads users to harder drugs, and he’s said that he felt concerned that legalization would increase youth consumption. Brown is on the record defending the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, stating that “the evidence is in that [marijuana] works for a number of patients.”
West Virginia U.S. Senate Primary
Republican winner: Patrick Morrisey
The West Virginia attorney general has said that it was important to be “open-minded” about medical marijuana legalization because it “may provide some relief to those who truly may be in need and hurting.” However, Morrisey was clear during a debate hosted by local television station WSAZ last month that he was “opposed to it for recreational use.”
Morrisey said that recreational marijuana was “another gateway into this terrible drug problem.”
Democratic winner: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin
Though Manchin has faced criticism over his opposition to the legalization of cannabis—most recently during an April 5 town hall event where the senator was booed for suggesting that the substance was a gateway drug—he did reportedly cast a voice vote in support of a spending amendment that prevents federal intervention in state medical cannabis laws.
According to NORML, Manchin also said that he “would lean more to listen to the doctors, the professionals who are responsible for our health,” with respect to marijuana reform.
West Virginia U.S. House Primary (District 3)
Democratic winner: Richard Ojeda
The state senator and former Army veteran is decidedly pro-legalization. He sponsored a bill to legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia last year, which was signed into law by the governor on April 19, 2017. A statement on Ojeda’s campaign site makes his stance clear:
“Through comprehensive cannabis legislation, encompassing decriminalization, medical, and industrial use, we can utilize one of the most medically beneficial and economically viable plants on Earth to fight the opioid epidemic, generate revenue to fund new education and infrastructure initiatives, and address the problem of overpopulation within our state correctional facilities,” it states. “With a comprehensive approach to cannabis policy, we can put West Virginia on a path to a prosperous future and grow a new economy that will benefit the people of our state for generations to come.”
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
In recent years, medical marijuana has made a spectacularly controversial entrance into our daily narrative. U.S. states are challenging a plethora of outdated laws concerning the substance’s medicinal use, and the results have sparked a national debate on the legalization of recreational cannabis use, sale, and regulation. There are some states, however, that still treat marijuana like cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, despite research dispelling common misconceptions about the use of cannabis and its application to modern medicine. Here are 5 of the worst states to be caught using or possessing marijuana:
Getting caught with any amount of marijuana in Arizona will result in a felony charge, an almost impossibly hardened sentence in the opinions of many on both sides of the law. Though Arizona legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2010, recreational use is widely admonished and carries life-changing ramifications. Under the state’s laws, possession of less than two pounds will result in a Class 6 felony charge, over $100,000 in fines, and at least six months in jail; regardless of how little one possesses, this is the lowest sentence, and possession with intent to sell or cultivation both spell life behind bars. Even with medical marijuana legalized, medical users are still fighting for their right to have access to (and use) this treatment, and places like universities are being threatened with loss of federal funding if marijuana is permitted on-campus.
Another medically legal state (with updates to the law being added as recently as 2016), Florida has stiff penalties for recreational users. Any amount under 20 grams will garner up to a year in jail, a fine, and is tagged as a first-degree misdemeanor; those with more than 20 grams face up to five years. Charges in this state may not be as serious as they are in others, but the laws surrounding cannabis are more specialized and include harsher penalties for synthetic marijuana, as well as “marijuana addiction treatment” for those incarcerated. Consequently, an individual convicted in this state may have their driver’s license revoked, even if the offense occurred without a vehicle present or involved. Florida state laws on marijuana use are constantly changing, and lawmakers are often pushing for harsher sentences.
With possession of just 2 ounces being identified as a Class 1 misdemeanor under South Dakota law, “no person may knowingly possess marijuana” in any amount, and for no reason (medicinal or otherwise). Of the 13 states that have decriminalized recreational use of marijuana and the 46 with medical marijuana laws in place, South Dakota is one of the few left in total defiance. Even users from other states will be charged in the same way as anyone in possession of marijuana in this state, receiving penalties like a 90-day suspension of a person’s license if the substance is found in their vehicle. One report from Pierre, North Dakota reveals a cannabis user being forcibly catheterized after refusing to provide a urine sample to police, and recounts the experience as “degrading” and a violation of his rights.
Another recent addition to the list of states that allow medical cannabis use, Wisconsin’s laws for possession are relatively harsh; just a small amount is considered a Class 1 felony and will result in jail time and a hefty fine. Though many cities in Wisconsin are battling against state law (and 9 of the 10 major cities in the state have decriminalized possession of small amounts), some municipalities adhere strictly to state-appointed guidelines, which levy substantial charges against users. Medical marijuana users in the state are under no distinct advantage, as the statute renders extremely specific. Even the state’s Native American tribes are taking a stand against these strict laws, with the Menominee tribe voting to legalize both types of use on their reservations in 2015.
This state has staunchly resisted the uprising of medical marijuana for years, and outlaws all uses and forms of cannabis to anyone, even those legal in other states. An individual convicted of possessing less than 30 grams will serve jail time and be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, while anything over 30 grams will be tagged as a Class D felony, leaving Indiana with the award for the harshest laws against cannabis users. Those seeking respite in legal states will be prosecuted as well, since Indiana law states that a person caught with trace amounts of marijuana in their systems while driving will be subject to the same laws that apply to possession, even if no actual marijuana is present. In addition to these worrying statutes, research shows that African-Americans are three times as likely to be targeted and arrested for cannabis use.
After Curtis Hill, the Attorney General of Indiana, wrote an opinion piece on the dangers of cannabis legalization, State Senator Karen Tallian pushed back on Hill’s claims that stem from old assumptions, bad data, and misplaced values.
Hill labeled his criticism of cannabis as a call to “speak the truth.” His arguments hit on may of the hallmarks of the anti-cannabis stance: marijuana as a “gateway drug,” the harmful effects it can have on children, impaired driving, and cannabis’ association with “crime.” He also cites a strange statistic. “Eighty percent of men arrested for crimes in Sacramento in 2012 tested positive for at least one illegal drug. The most common was marijuana — found in 54 percent of the arrestees.” In this argument, Hill disregards the fact that medical cannabis is legal in California.
As is typical of politicians who spent years either observing or participating in the war on drugs, Hill ignores studies that prove his arguments wrong. While his statistics about the effects of cannabis on children are true, legalization advocates do not support providing drugs to children. State Senator Karen Tallian, who supports cannabis legalization in her state, takes issue with this and many of his other opinions. “Having submitted marijuana reform legislation, and monitored every proposal that has been filed, I have some experience in what is in the legislature,” she said. Although there is a lot of citizen interest, most of the lobbyists roll their eyes at the thought of marijuana legalization in Indiana.”
Tallian first distinguishes the importance of cannabis reform, aside from the argument of cannabis legalization itself. Talian wrote,
“We should stop putting our kids in jail, or giving them criminal records, for possession of a substance that is legal in many other places.”
Children and adults alike are victims of “tough on crime” policies that create maximize sentencing for nonviolent drug infractions. Combined with arrest statistics that show African Americans are disproportionately punished for drug crimes, these policies are ruining lives. “Current laws make it impossible for someone convicted of a drug crime as a teenager to find a job once they have completed school. We penalize our youth for their lifetime for being busted in high school,” wrote Tallian.
Both Tallian and Hill agree that the opioid epidemic is a grave concern, but their opinions on how to combat it differ greatly. While Hill commented that Indiana leaders should work to curtail drug abuse rather than welcoming more of it.” Tallian counters that “A huge part of [the opioid epidemic] is attributable to prescription drugs, and the situation is not relevant to marijuana reform.” According to the CDC, many substances that are 100% legal are causing fatal overdoses, whether they are purchased from the liquor store or a pharmacy. To this day, there have been no fatal overdoses of cannabis.
Hill also makes a similar argument that that Governor Chris Christie made last month, insinuating that liberal politicians were simply supporting cannabis legalization in order to gather tax revenue. But Tallian left politics out of it, and closed her op-ed with this statement, ”Finally, and we know this as a nation, prohibition of a substance that is accepted by such a huge portion of society has never worked. I could have written an entire Op-Ed on this subject alone.”
In a shocking turn of events, both the Indiana House and Senate have approved a bill to legalize the possession and use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for those suffering from treatment resistant epilepsy in the Hoosier State.
Multiple medical cannabis bills have been introduced to the Indiana Legislature the past few years, but none have even received a hearing. This time though, the House passed the bill unanimously 95 to zero. In the same day, the Senate voted 35 to 13 in support.
Families with children suffering from severe forms of epilepsy, living in Indiana, have reportedly been pushing for this CBD-only law to be approved so that their children may have access to this treatment option. CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis that has received national recognition for reducing the duration as well as the total number of seizures suffered by children with epilepsy. Because it is non-psychoactive, CBD oil does not produce the high associated with full potency marijuana that contains higher percentages of THC.
Written by 42 representatives and sponsored by five more, House Bill 1148, would allow those suffering from ‘treatment resistant epilepsy’ to possess and use CBD oil if a state-approved physician recommends it. The department of heath would be responsible for keeping track of those registered as CBD oil patients.
Not signed into law yet, a committee is tasked with deciding what percentage of THC will be allowable, and then it will head to the governor’s desk for consideration.