As a State Senator, I have had the tremendous opportunity to participate in revising our State’s Criminal Code. Five years of work by many different parties went into this process with three goals in mind:
(1) reduce the number of non-violent offenders currently in prison;
(2) ensure that sentences are proportional to the severity of the crime; and
(3) fund rehab and treatment for the 70-80 percent of offenders with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues.
Spurred on by this effort, I have repeatedly introduced a bill that would de-criminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. My proposal does not turn Indiana into Colorado. It only turns possession of marijuana into an infraction punishable by a fine without jail time.
Other states have adopted this approach. Some states, like our neighbor Ohio, have had this in place for decades. It no longer seems reasonable to saddle our children with criminal records for doing something that is allowed in half of the country.
On a positive note, Indiana has moved forward with provisions to grow industrial hemp, and to allow use of CBD oil. Finally, we were able to obtain a public hearing, although short, on the use of medical cannabis. Each year, these efforts gain more support, both in the Senate and the House, and by both Republicans and Democrats.