The Indiana Senate has reached the deadline for legislation to be heard by various standing committees. By next week, all proposals must be considered by the full Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for additional consideration. Bills approved in the House of Representatives will then move to the Senate.
MEMORANDUM TO CONSTITUENTS ON MARIJUANA LEGISLATION – SB 347
January 23, 2012
As you know, I brought forward the subject of Marijuana policy in Indiana in the 2011 legislative session. This may have been the first time this subject was ever raised in the state legislature. I requested a study of policy to be held during summer study sessions. And, in fact, we did have such a study session, allowing a great number of people to testify. This year, I introduced SB347 that had a number of provisions, including:
- eliminate felony possession of marijuana altogether;
- decriminalize possession of less than 3 ounces, and make it an infraction only;
- make possession of more than 3 ounces no more than a misdemeanor; and
- create an exemption for research institutions.
In addition, I have amendments to propose:
- allow for production of industrial hemp; and
- allow for a “free pass” for anyone who had a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana use.
On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, this bill will be given a hearing. However I was only able to secure a hearing with the understanding that the bill will not be voted on this year. Keep in mind: this is an election year. Many of the people who would otherwise support this bill are concerned that they will not support it during a year when they are up for re-election and face stiff primary challenges by persons who may not be sympathetic to this issue. I do not want to risk a “no” vote. No vote is better than a recorded vote of “No” for the future viability of a bill.
Many of you may be disappointed. Keep in mind: I live in a world of political reality. I am taking the steps necessary to keep this moving, even if it is by Slow Time.
I will continue to work on this issue. All the polls that we have show a very strong support to change Indiana’s criminal laws on this issue.
The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee met last week to hear testimony on potential policy reform in how state law addresses marijuana. The study was proposed by State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) and approved for study during the 2011 legislative session.
At the hearing, Sen. Tallian discussed Indiana’s current laws regulating marijuana. She also briefly outlined the need for sentencing reform from her experience in Indiana’s courtrooms, witnessing firsthand the burden low-level offenders unnecessarily placed on the penal system. She then turned the hearing over to public testimony.
Public testimony generally fell into three categories; those advocating Indiana’s criminal code concerning low-level marijuana usage is too aggressive and needlessly clogs jails; those who see the legalization of marijuana as a means to achieving a regulated, taxable commodity; and those offering personal experience of the medical benefits of marijuana.
Throughout the summer and fall when the Indiana General Assembly is not in session, numerous interim committees and commissions are convened to conduct in-depth research and analysis on many of the complex issues facing the state. The recommendations formed over the next few months by the work of these committees, which includes public testimony, are included in proposals likely to be considered during the next legislative session. Most study committees must complete their work by November 1st.
- Laws and penalties for child solicitation, child trafficking, and sex crimes against children – Criminal Code Evaluation Commission.
- Cost effectiveness and the state’s criminal justice system (after last year’s proposal went off the tracks) – Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee.
- Indiana’s criminal laws regarding marijuana – Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee.
- Low graduation rates and special education programs – Interim Study Committee on Education.
- Project labor agreements and employee organization, or “right to work,” policies – new Interim Study Committee on Employment Issues.
- Water quality of the Great Lakes – Environmental Quality Service Council.
- Health care exchanges – Health Finance Commission.
- Worker’s comp, health care service prices and billing – Interim Study Committee on Insurance.
- Veterans’ procurement preferences – Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs.
- Transit funding, the state inheritance tax, property tax exemptions for non-profits, sales tax holidays, internet sales tax collection – Commission on State Tax and Fiscal Policy.
Committee meeting dates, agendas, and minutes will all be available online at www.in.gov/legislative/interim/committee.
This week was the mid-session deadline for Senate bills to advance out of the Senate. Beginning February 28, the Senate will begin work on House bills that were approved in that chamber. This brief summary includes highlights of a few of the 198 bills approved by the Senate that are now eligible for action in the House of Representatives:
The General Assembly is rapidly approaching the half-way mark of the 2011 legislative session. Facing mid-session deadlines, lawmakers are working diligently to get hearings on their initiatives and move them through their respective chambers. Beginning the first week of March, the Senate will begin to review House-approved bills, and the House will begin its deliberation of bills passed by the Senate. This brief summary highlights recent action taken by the Senate and other activities at the Statehouse. Continue reading
Sen. Karen Tallian has proposed a legislative study of the impact of Indiana’s marijuana policies, including costs in the state’s criminal justice system and the potential for regulation and taxation options.
Under Senate Bill 192, the study would provide an assessment of the actual costs to our criminal justice system including the impact on law enforcement, prosecution and sentencing. It would also provide an opportunity for the public to voice their opinions on the state’s current policies and other options for regulating marijuana.
Sen. Tallian says that in light of the state’s budget crisis, we need to make every effort to find more effective ways to save taxpayer dollars.
LISTEN to Sen. Tallian’s comments on the study:
In Indiana, the bill calls for a study and recommendations on:
- Marijuana and its effect on the Indiana criminal justice system.
- Whether the possession and use of marijuana should continue to be illegal in Indiana and, if so, which penalties and amounts pertaining to marijuana possession and use are appropriate.
- Whether a program for medical marijuana should be implemented in Indiana and, if so, under what parameters.
- Whether marijuana should be treated and controlled like alcohol, with controlled and regulated sales, and special taxation.
- Any other issue related to marijuana.
The legislative review would compliment ongoing work to reform sentencing laws, concentrating resources on the most violent criminals and taking a smarter approach to those who commit lesser offenses.