Indiana: Lawmakers Mulling Provisions To Felonize Marijuana Possession Offenses

Indiana: Lawmakers Mulling Provisions To Felonize Marijuana Possession OffensesIndianapolis, IN: A Senate Committee last week amended legislation, House Bill 1006, to include provisions to raise certain marijuana possession offenses from criminal misdemeanors to felonies.

Members of the Senate’s Corrections and Criminal Law Committee approved the new amendments, which seek to increase penalties and potential prison time for those who possess one-third of an ounce or more of marijuana. Members of the General Assembly had previously approved HB 1006, which, at that time, included language to reduce marijuana possession penalties, among other drug possession offenses.

According to media reports, Republican Gov. Mike Pence specifically called for the increased penalties for minor marijuana offenses, stating, "I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties."

Under present law, the possession of approximately one ounce of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. The possession of larger quantities of cannabis is classified as a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Senate lawmakers sudden move to increase penalties conflicts with public opinion. A 2012 Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll reported that 54 percent of voters supported reducing marijuana possession penalties to a fine-only, while only 37 percent disagreed.

For more information, please contact Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at: Erik@norml.org or visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51046/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10203.