Indiana state senator files marijuana decriminalization bill

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An Indiana state senator has introduced a bill reducing the penalties for possession of marijuana.

The move comes after Washington and Colorado voted in November 2012 to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Eighteen other states legalized marijuana for medicinal use. However, the federal government could still choose to enforce federal law, so the future of those new state laws is unclear.

Tuesday, Indiana State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) introduced a bill at the Statehouse to decriminalize the drug in Indiana.

"I am a practicing attorney. I have sat in court so many times and watched young kids, one after another, do plea agreements on this much marijuana and it is just stupid," Tallian said.

Tallian's offering would reduce the penalty of possession of less than two ounces of marijuana to an infraction, punishable by a fine. It also reduces the penalties for distribution and possession of metabolites while driving. The bill also paves the way for industrial hemp production and eliminates the existing $3.50/per gram tax.

Last November, the head of the Indiana State Police told a committee of lawmakers that marijuana is here to stay and there's a national trend toward allowing adults to have small amounts. Paul Whitesell said he would favor the legalization of marijuana in Indiana if it is taxed.

"It's here. It's going to stay. There is an awful lot of victimization that goes with it. If it were up to me, I would legalize and tax it, but, particularly in sight of the fact that several other states have come to that part of their legal system, as well," Whitesell said.

ISP backpedaled after Whitesell's remarks.

Ross Thomas has practiced law in Indiana for the last 18 years. He is also a member of the Indiana chapter of NORML - the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"One of the things I point out is, Ohio has had marijuana decriminalization since 1976 for anything less than 100 grams of marijuana. It's a fine and no jail time. As far as I know, Ohio is not a hedonist paradise," said Thomas.

This is the third consecutive year that Senator Tallian has filed a similar bill about marijuana. No hearing date has been set, but Tallian's bill is not expected to pass.