Indiana state Sen. Karen Tallian.
“We need to stop putting our kids in jail for what is becoming legal all over the country,” Tallian told a local news station this week.
Senate Bill 314 is the third attempt in as many years to pass a decriminalization bill in the state. Despite polling showing a majority of Indianans wanting decriminalization, state lawmakers have failed to move any of the proposals forward.
Last year, the bill was killed after state Sen. Mike Young prohibited it from being discussed in a public hearing. Killian vowed at the time to help educate Young over the interim. Here’s to hoping the schooling helped.
The state also has a crime of being present at a location where you know there is drug activity. So, merely being at the same house as someone smoking a joint can get you six months and $1,000 in fines.
Interestingly, possessing paraphernalia is decriminalized with the penalty being listed as an infraction. That doesn’t mean the penalty is still light, however. Fines for a pipe for a first offense can be as high as $10,000.
Senate Bill 314 will now head to the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee. Despite the name, that might actually be a good thing. In 2012, Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell was supportive of decriminalizing cannabis and freeing up law enforcement for other issues.
But even if the bill passes through the committee, the Senate and the House, it might not ever make it to becoming law. Republican Gov. Mike Pence has said as recently as March of last year that he was against lowering pot penalties and even came out in support of making them stricter.
But keeping up the fight against cannabis is also keeping up the racial profiling by Indiana police, who arrest black people 3.7 times more often than white people for pot. Marijuana possession accounts for about 44 percent of all drug arrests in the state. Last year, it cost taxpayers about $38.5 million dollars in police enforcement, according to the ACLU.