Marijuana bill heads to Senate


Indianapolis - An Indiana Senate committee has approved a bill to create a study on the state's laws concerning marijuana. The committee voted 5-3 on the bill, which now moves to the full Senate.

The proposal floated by Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian of Portage would direct the criminal law and sentencing study committee to examine Indiana's marijuana laws next summer and come up with recommendations. Other states have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana or created medical marijuana programs, and Tallian says it's time for Indiana to start the discussion.

The study would examine:

1. Marijuana and its effect on the Indiana criminal justice system.

2. 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.

3. Whether a program for medical marijuana should be implemented in Indiana and, if so, under what parameters.

4. Whether marijuana should be treated and controlled like alcohol, with controlled and regulated sales, and special taxation.

5. Any other issue related to marijuana.

The committee heard compelling testimony from a Republican lawmaker, Tom Knollman, who represents Liberty. Knollman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and argued in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

"I know I am going to get all kinds of grief for it, legislator in favor of marijuana. Is he going to join Cheech and Chong, 'Up in Smoke'? Is he going to be getting high in session?" Knollman testified.

Knollman is a familiar site negotiating the hallways of state government in his cart. He has never made his health an issue, until Tuesday.

"If I can do anything as a state legislator, I want to put a face to easing the suffering of others," Knollman said.

He has already invested $50,000 to get a pump for medicine and spends $25,000 annually on medications, which he says are not working.

"I know when my leg starts twitching and I hurt, I am looking for any alternatives," Knollman said.

Judging by the interactions he gets in the hallways of the Indiana Statehouse, he is not alone.

"I don't want a bunch of stoners running around, but I do know that I want to ease my suffering. I want to ease other patients with MS," he said. "Make us legal. We all want to abide by the laws of Indiana, just help us out."

Tallian says senators should support the bill because it only creates a study committee on the issue.