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.
Nearly half of the United States have legalized whole plant medical marijuana, and a handful of other states have approved limited amendments which legalize one single cannabinoid concentrate, cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Indiana is not one of those states, and probably no one really expected medical marijuana to even be considered in the conservative Hoosier State. Surprisingly, however, it may actually have a chance in 2015.
Indiana Senator Karen Tallian (D-District 4) has introduced bills to decriminalize the possession of personal amounts of cannabis for the last three years, but none of those measures have earned enough support to receive a hearing. This year, Senator Tallian is shifting gears to sponsor a bill to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.
The measure, SB 284, allows state-licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from a handful of debilitating medical conditions. It allows patients to have caregivers, but does not establish licensing for dispensaries. SB 284 also creates a regulatory body called the Department of Marijuana Enforcement (DOME), and an advisory committee to review results and recommendations for the program. This bill is unique because it allows DOME to authorize research licenses and facilities within the state.
The Indiana Senate did not reconvene until 1:30 pm EST, Wednesday January 14, but Senator Karen Tallian already met with Senator Patricia Miller, chair of the Health and Provider Services Committee, to which her medical marijuana bill was assigned. Whether or not the bill will receive a hearing during the 2015 session is still undecided, but the word “no” has not yet been spoken.
Senator Tallian was unavailable for comment when the Whaxy staff called to ask how the meeting with the Health Committee chair went, but her legislative assistant, Brent Stinson said,
“Senator Tallian met briefly with Senator Miller yesterday to gauge if the bill would receive a hearing. She [Miller] did not indicate yes or no, but we should know in about one week.”
Senator Miller was in a meeting when the Whaxy staff called to ask about her stance on the medical marijuana bill. Her legislative assistant, Jeremy Hoffman, said,
“Senator Miller has not decided yet whether the medical marijuana bill will receive a hearing. She did meet with Senator Tallian already this morning, and that is all I know.”
In these situations, it is important for legislators to hear from constituents. If you live in Indiana and want to encourage or discourage the Health Committee chairperson, Senator Patricia Miller, to give the medical marijuana bill a hearing, you may contact her via phone or email at:
- 317-232-9489 (legislative assistant Jeremy Hoffman will answer this line)
- email: [email protected]
photo credit: thestatehousefile
The medicinal marijuana movement is gaining momentum in the United States, and now it may even have a future in Indiana. Senator Karen Tallian, district 4 representative, plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill to the Indiana legislature when it reconvenes in 2015.
Tallian, inspired by the passing of the recent federal funding bill that eliminates raids on state-legalized medical marijuana operations, explained her reasoning for introducing the bill in 2015, in a released statement,
“For this upcoming session, I have a bill ready to file to legalize medical marijuana. I am ready and eager to get to work after this last major federal obstacle has been lifted.”
Tallian has introduced multiple marijuana policy reform bills in the past that would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana for adults. None of her previous bills have passed despite the fact that, according to the most recent Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization in the United States. This clear-majority approval rating of 58 percent is a significant increase from 1969 when only 12 percent of people supported legalization.
According to the Hoosier Survey, conducted by The Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University, marijuana legalization support has also increased in Indiana. The 2012 survey reported that 53 percent of Indiana residents supported decriminalizing cannabis possession for adults. The 2013 survey found that 52 percent of Hoosiers support legalizing and regulating cannabis in the same manner as alcohol and tobacco. Support increased to 78 percent in response to the question, “should marijuana be taxed like cigarettes?”
Currently, the state of Indiana has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. An adult caught in possession of any amount of cannabis less than 30 grams risks up to one year in prison and $5,000 in fines. At this time, these laws stand even if the person uses the marijuana for medicinal purposes.
graph credit: Gallup