Indianapolis, IN: The Acting Prosecutor for Marion County (population 900,000) announced on Monday that his office will immediately cease prosecuting cases involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis. The county, which includes Indianapolis, is the 55th most populated county in the United States.
"Too often, an arrest for marijuana possession puts individuals into the system who otherwise would not be. That is not a win for our community," Prosecutor Ryan Mears said in a prepared statement. "The enforcement of marijuana policy has disproportionately impacted people of color, and this is a first step to addressing that."
His office acknowledged that the new policy "does not apply" to cases related to marijuana trafficking, sales, public use, or driving under the influence, or to offenses involving defendants under 18 years of age.
Some 390 marijuana-related cases are currently under review. The Office will dismiss those cases that meet the new policy’s criteria.
Indiana NORML Chairman Neal Smith praised the policy change. "For many years Indiana NORML has worked diligently to address the severe racial disparities in arrests and prosecutions for simple possession of cannabis and to advance civil liberties," Smith said. Indiana NORML Board Member Bill Groth added: "These efforts have included face-to-face meetings with several elected officials, including representatives of the Marion County Prosecutor’s office, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council, and numerous state and local officials over the last several months. We are most pleased that our efforts have finally resulted in a sound, compassionate, and permanent reassessment of law enforcement priorities as they relate to possession of cannabis."
Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a criminal record.
Marion County’s new policy is similar to those recently instituted in several other cities and counties around the country, including Jefferson County, Kentucky; Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri; and Norfolk, Virginia, among others.
For more information, contact Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator, at (202) 483-5500, or visit Indiana NORML.