More than 10,000 Hoosiers are charged with marijuana possession each year. Senator Tallian says those cases cost the state millions of dollars annually.
“That’s money that might be better spent on education or building roads. It's time for Indiana to get into this conversation,” she said.
So far, 13 other states have eliminated penalties on or decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. But most cops don't think reducing the penalties for people who are caught with the drug is a good idea.
“I think it’s going to be very hard to enforce,” said Cpl. Ross Uitdenhowen with St. Joseph County police. “Some of these laws now…we say a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level is illegal, but how do you figure out how much of it was due to marijuana consumption as well?”
On Thursday a representative from the Drug Policy Alliance told the Indiana Legislature's Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee states that have decriminalized personal use of pot or legalized medical marijuana haven't seen an upswing in drug use. He also estimated Indiana could raise $44 million a year in sales tax alone if it regulated and taxed marijuana.
“All of these are issues being examined in state legislatures across the country,” said Ryan Dvorak, Indiana’s Eighth District representative. “I wouldn't realistically expect any legislation to pass in the upcoming session. Governor Daniels and several legislative leaders have already expressed their opposition to changing Indiana's current marijuana laws."
From here, the committee will make recommendations to the legislature and lawmakers could be voting on a number of marijuana issues as soon as next year.
WSBT also spoke with three St. Joseph County judges today who said they have opinions on the committee study, but they don't feel it is appropriate for judges to comment on pending legislation because their job is to enforce the law, whether they like it or not.