Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jul 2011 Source: Exponent, The (Purdue U, IN Edu) Copyright: 2011 Purdue Student Publishing Foundation Contact: http://www.purdueexponent.org/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/883 Author: Kirsten Gibson, Summer Reporter STATE REVISITS MARIJUANA POLICY Indiana, though thoroughly conservative, might see changes in its marijuana policy if Thursday's presentation on decriminalizing and legalizing medical marijuana had any effect on legislatures. On Thursday, the legislature's Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study committee heard numerous testimonies from policy and medical experts as to the benefits of marijuana and the negatives of complete prohibition. The hearing was streamed live on the Indiana government website for public viewing and The Exponent watched. Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, prompted the committee hearing, and began with a short presentation on her concerns with Indiana's "draconian" marijuana laws. Her concerns ranged from the industrial use of hemp to the legalization of medicinal marijuana. She questioned the impact of legal repercussions that come with prohibiting marijuana. "Are we trying to punish people or are we trying to prevent something?" she said to the committee. Indiana's marijuana laws come with a hefty fine and possible jail time with any amount of possession. If found with less than one ounce of marijuana, the penalties are up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. If found with more than one ounce, the crime is considered a felony with possible jail time of 6 months to 3 years and a fine of $10,000. Marijuana policy experts at the hearing stated that these fines and punishments have a negative affect rather than positive. Daniel Abrahamson of the Drug Policy Alliance said states that enact lesser penalties for marijuana do not see an increase in the use of it. "In no instance have lawmakers recriminalized marijuana," Abrahamson said. He went on to say that the public knows marijuana laws are ineffective. "The public recognizes that marijuana laws have done more harm than good," he said. Noah Member of the Marijuana Policy Project said the status quo of marijuana laws is ineffective and, even, immoral. He, among others, have drafted legislation that would give a model of a tightly regulated system in which marijuana would be regulated by the government. It would be an "attempt to rationally regulate a product," Member said. Questions and suggestions from the committee were wary of the experts advice. They asked what the difference between legalizing marijuana and legalizing cocaine would be, the quality control of marijuana and if it was possible to legalize marijuana that doesn't contain THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces the high. Rep. Randy Truitt, R-Lafayette, said the issue isn't of importance in this time of economic struggle. "What we need to be focused on is the economy and jobs," Truitt said. He could not comment on whether he would vote for any bill in favor of decriminalizing marijuana or legalizing the use of medical marijuana. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.