Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Is Discussed but Not Voted On!

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The House committee that heard the bill to decriminalize possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana on Wednesday is not likely to take any further action on the issue. House Courts Committee Chairwoman Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) said it was important to have the conversation, but she decided not to bring the bill up for a vote.

If the bill had passed, it would have gone on to be considered by the whole House. McNamara explained to the committee members, “I’ve been asked why.” “The answer is that we haven’t had this dialogue, and I think it has to be had,” he said. Police, Prosecutors Remain Opposed

The Hoosier State a Holdout for Cannabis Reform

Indiana is unusual among its counterparts in its refusal to decriminalize or legalize Marijuana for either medical or recreational usage. Medical marijuana usage has been authorized in Kentucky and Ohio, and recreational use has been legalized in Illinois and Michigan.

Getting the drug lawfully is no longer a problem, especially for Hoosiers who live near state borders, but doing so can still have serious implications in Indiana. Indiana has a $2 billion cannabis business with no quality control requirements, according to the bill’s sponsor, Republican state representative Heath VanNatter of Kokomo.

While rules are preferable, decriminalization frees up resources in the justice and police systems to better serve local residents. While the drug is still prohibited at the federal level, state officials like Governor Eric Holcomb have been reluctant to legalize it in their own states.

Supporters of the law came from a wide variety of sectors, including public defenders, the Indiana branch of the ACLU, and Americans for Prosperity. One Indianapolis doctor, Dr. Richard Feldman, who formerly served as Indiana’s state health commissioner, has called for the eventual legalization of marijuana.

Feldman, representing the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, told the committee that his organization was on the fence about Marijuana legalization but in favor of decriminalizing possession for personal use. Rather than locking up adults and teenagers for marijuana use, “we understand the benefits of intervention and treatment,” Feldman said. “Marijuana is not a harsh drug; it is not a narcotic, and it is certainly safer than alcohol.”

Police, Prosecutors Remain Opposed

Yet legal system representatives and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce spoke against the plan, arguing that it would be a “slippery path” to complete legalization. A representative for the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Brock Patterson, argued that the two-ounce cap was excessively high, pointing out that it was higher than the daily purchase limitations of states that had legalized marijuana.

The possibility of screening for and measuring marijuana impairment was ruled out by Patterson. “The science isn’t there, and other states are always shifting their levels.” Marijuana tests have not yet reached the same level of accuracy as blood alcohol tests, which have been improved over decades.

According to Indiana Public Defender Council member Joel Wieneke, a major problem for law enforcement is that most laboratories lack the proper equipment to accurately test for marijuana. He claimed that law enforcement agencies couldn’t even rely on product labels because they are governed at the state level, not at the federal.

In support of the bill, Wieneke stated, “If we want to be able to prosecute folks for these charges, Indiana is going to have to invest in extensive examinations and laboratories across the state.” The two law enforcement officers on the committee, Republican Steve Bartels and Democrat Mitch Gore, both voted in favor of the legislation, citing the fact that they had more pressing issues and responsibilities.

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