Pharos-Tribune

State News

February 24, 2013

Maureen Hayden: Pot debate still included in criminal code overhaul

INDIANAPOLIS —  In the flurry of activity at the Statehouse in recent weeks, I missed reporting some sad news for stoners: The legislation to decriminalize marijuana is dead.

State Sen. Karen Tallian’s bill to make possession of 2 ounces of marijuana into an infraction, like a speeding ticket, died when it didn’t get a hearing in the Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law before a critical deadline passed.

Tallian’s response was anything but mellow. The Democratic grandmother from Ogden Dunes told The Times of Northwest Indiana reporter Dan Carden: “I don’t understand why they refused to even hear it. We have certainly heard some really idiotic bills in that committee.”

Setting aside the question of idiocy in the General Assembly, here’s news that may hearten those who’ve been following the pot debate: Legislation that would roll back Indiana’s marijuana laws — some of the toughest in the nation — is still very much alive.

Tucked inside a 400-plus page bill to overhaul Indiana’s criminal code is language that would turn most felony-level marijuana crimes into mere misdemeanors. It puts an end to the reefer madness of a past General Assembly that made possession of marijuana a felony if you’d been caught once before or had more than 1 ounce.  

So it would still be a crime to get caught with cannabis, but no longer a crime that could land you in prison or make you automatically lose your driver’s license.

The four co-authors of the criminal code reform bill make for an interesting alliance. The two conservative Republican authors are Hendricks County lawyer Greg Steuerwald and former deputy prosecutor Jud McMillin of Brookville. The two liberal Democratic authors are Bloomington lawyer Matt Pierce and retired Hammond police officer Linda Lawson.

They all had a role to play in crafting a bill that’s been several years in the making and has won strong bipartisan support. The full House is expected to vote on the bill Monday then send it to the Senate where the legislation has strong allies.  

At a media availability last week to talk about the bill, none of the co-authors said the word “marijuana,” though I think they should have if they wanted to get good media coverage.

As Time magazine reported last week, “pot is having a political moment” as the push to lessen penalties for marijuana has moved from the margins to mainstream.

Tallian’s bill was a pipe dream — no way is this current General Assembly ready to join the 14 states that have decriminalized possession (or the handful of other states that have started down that path.)

But it wasn’t without some hope: Late last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brent Steele — a rock-ribbed, law-and-order guy if there ever was one — came out in support of Tallian’s proposal. He likened Indiana’s marijuana laws to “smashing an ant with a sledgehammer.”

Steele backed off after he decided the idea wasn’t politically palatable to his conservative colleagues — at least not yet.

Remember that committee chairman who wouldn’t give Tallian’s bill a hearing? He’s promised Tallian that he’ll research the issue before next year’s session. Maybe that’s a sign that decriminalization isn’t dead, just dormant.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

 

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • Teen Pilot-Crash [Duplicate] [Duplicate] Family: Indiana teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks PLAINFIELD (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren't achieved without taking chances. "Why does any explorer undertake the nec

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indy. Man who avoided prison time for rape resentenced INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis man who was placed on home detention after being convicted of drugging and raping his then-wife is going to prison for violating his probation. The ex-wife of 52-year-old David Wise said she felt "sucker punched" b

    July 24, 2014

  • Judge rules Indiana hog farms protected by law WINCHESTER (AP) — A judge has ruled state law protects the operator of large hog farms from lawsuits filed by residents of an eastern Indiana county. The lawsuits against North Carolina-based Maxwell Farms accused it of allowing hog waste to accumula

    July 24, 2014

  • Ex-Indy officer appeals convictions in fatal crash INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A former Indianapolis police officer is appealing his convictions for killing one motorcyclist and seriously injuring two others while driving drunk in his police cruiser. A brief filed by public defenders Wednesday claims the jud

    July 24, 2014

  • Ex-Indiana officer pleads guilty in $150K theft FRANKFORT (AP) — A former central Indiana police officer has pleaded guilty to charges that he stole nearly $150,000 from a company for which he transported cash. Former Frankfort police Lt. Randy Emery avoided jail time as a judge sentenced him to t

    July 24, 2014

  • Court rules prison agency mistreated former Pendleton counselor INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Indiana's prison agency mistreated a female employee when it shrugged off her complaints about workers having sex on her desk and later fired her for having an affair with an official. The ap

    July 23, 2014

  • Complaint ends teacher prayer in western Indiana school district TERRE HAUTE (AP) — A western Indiana school district is telling teachers and other employees they can't lead prayers during school-sponsored event. The decision by the Vigo County School Corp. in Terre Haute follows a complaint made to the Freedom fr

    July 23, 2014

  • Lawmakers approve pair of new license plates INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A panel of state lawmakers approved new license plates recognizing the Indy 500 and Abraham Lincoln under a new system clamping down on the number of special license plates on the road. Members of the Legislature's transportation

    July 23, 2014

  • Indiana Veterans Hall of Fame seeks nominations INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new hall of fame for Indiana military veterans is seeking nominations for its first class of inductees. The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame says it expects to induct the first honorees around Veterans Day at Fort Benjamin

    July 23, 2014

  • Gay couples' lawyers object to full-court hearing INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Attorneys on either side of a lawsuit over Indiana’s overthrown gay marriage ban are wrangling over how many federal judges should hear the state’s appeal, a technical issue that could make a big difference.Those representing gay

    July 23, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

Yes
No
Not sure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.