A wave of cannabis reform has been sweeping through the U.S. for the past few years. After being outlawed for decades, Congress passed the Farm Bill in 2018, legislation that allowed the cultivation of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC levels, terming it industrial hemp. Aside from that, numerous states have taken steps to decriminalize medical and recreational marijuana use, with more progressive legislation passed each year.
This wave of reform hit Indiana after Senator Karen Tallian filed three bills as part of her marijuana reform package in the Senate. One bill would undo a provision in Senate Enrolled Act 516 that outlawed smokable hemp, and another would create a cannabis commission that would regulate the licensing of CBD products in the state. The third bill seeks to decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
The senator says that marijuana arrests account for the second-largest number of drug arrests in Indiana, with more than 22,000 arrests in 2018 alone. “Maybe we’re not putting people in jail in every county, but 22,000 arrests are a lot of court time, and a lot of these people will still end up with criminal records.”
According to the Insider, marijuana arrests cost the government, law enforcement and the people arrested and charged with possession and distribution crimes. The ACLU reports that these marijuana arrests cost the police $3.6 billion each year, meaning the police spent $4,390 per arrest or $73,170 per felony conviction. For the accused, defending a marijuana arrest could cost more than $10,000, with criminal defense lawyers charging between $10,000 and $15,000.
Republican Rep. Jim Lucas is also pushing a bill for marijuana decriminalization, and he has thrown his support behind Tallian’s marijuana reforms in the Senate. “That’s the hypocrisy of our policy right now,” he says, referring to marijuana arrests. “We have these outdated, senseless laws on the books that make a criminal out of an otherwise responsible adult for having small amounts of cannabis.”
Although state regulation hasn’t caught up yet, prosecutors in areas such as Marion County began dismissing small marijuana cases in October and according to Lucas, more if it will happen if there is not a statewide decriminalization law.
“We’re going to see pockets of resistance spring up because of our inability to even begin to address this issue. That’s on us. That’s on the state level and the governor’s office,” he says.
It would be understandable if the cannabis industry, including players like Plus Products Inc. (CSE: PLUS) (OTCQX: PLPRF) and Marijuana Company of America Inc. (OTCQB: MCOA), is hoping that the proposed reforms are passed and implemented soon so that the people of Indiana can enjoy the benefits that come with the industry.
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