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December 13, 2012

Survey finds support for lighter pot law, opposition to same-sex marriage ban

INDIANAPOLIS — A majority of Hoosiers are ready to support the decriminalization of marijuana and oppose putting a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution, according to a new survey released today.

The 2012 Hoosier Survey done by the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University found that 53 percent of Indiana residents think possession of small amounts of marijuana should be treated like a traffic violation rather than a misdemeanor or felony crime. Only 41 percent oppose the idea.

The annual survey, which asks Hoosiers to weigh in on issues likely to be considered in the next legislative session, found that Indiana residents are evenly split on their opinion of same-sex marriage, with 45 percent for legalizing it and 45 percent against. But it also found 54 percent are against putting a ban on it into the state constitution.

Ray Scheele, co-director of the Bowen Center, said the opposition to a constitutional same-sex ban -- which has had wide support from Republican legislators in the past -- indicates Hoosiers are wary of altering the state’s constitution for an issue that’s still evolving in public opinion.

“We (Hoosiers) view it as a special document not to be tampered with lightly,” said Scheele of the constitution.

The survey findings echo results of the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll in October that found 54 percent of voters would support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, and only 45 percent would support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Hoosiers do seem ready for the legislature to tamper with the state’s pot laws, which make marijuana possession a felony unless it's a first-time offense and the amount is less than one ounce.

Support for decriminalizing possession of a small amount of pot -- an idea supported by influential conservative Republican Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford -- came from people worried about the high cost of prosecuting minor drug offenses, Scheele said.

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