Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jul 2011
Source: Exponent, The (Purdue U, IN Edu)
Copyright: 2011 Purdue Student Publishing Foundation
Author: Kirsten Gibson, Summer Reporter 


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

He went on to say that the public knows marijuana laws are

"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.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.