Senator to introduce new marijuana bill
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 03:10
A bill introduced by Senator Brent Steele is calling for the decriminalization of marijuana in Indiana.
“I think it’s glorious honestly,” Steven Gross, a freshman communication major, said. “It’s decriminalizing something that shouldn’t be criminalized in the first place.”
This piece of legislation would make the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana an infraction rather than a criminal misdemeanor.
“The new proposed law that is recommended by the summer study committee says it will be lowered to a Class C misdemeanor, which is a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail,” said Steele. “I’m proposing a simple tweak, taking it one step further, saying that less than 10 grams of marijuana would be a $500 fine but no exposure to jail. They call that decriminalizing it because there is no possibility of loss of liberty, but there would be a fine for it. It would be a class C infraction, not misdemeanor.”
Since 1937, marijuana has been classified as an illegal substance in the United States. According to Jon Gettman of drugscience.org, Indiana itself has some of the harshest marijuana penalties in the nation. One ounce has a maximum penalty of one year of incarceration, and a $5,000 maximum fine. Seventeen other states, including California, Michigan, and Arizona, have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana, while Oregon, Washington, and Colorado are trying to push for the complete legalization of it.
“The decriminalization of marijuana, the legalization of medical marijuana, are all baby steps in ending the drug war,” Richard Schneirov, a history professor, said.
Steele however, who has gained national attention for the proposition for his bill, is positive.
“The reaction that I’ve had to all this and I’ve gotten media coverage from one end of the state to the other has been good,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of deputy prosecuting attorneys, especially who deal with the misdemeanors they call me and they tell me that this is exactly right. This is the right way we should be handling it. Frankly I’ve only had two negative comments on my e-mail and most everything has been pretty favorable.”
According to Gettman, in 2006 Indiana spent an estimated $148.81 million on marijuana arrests, the arrests themselves accounting for 6.22% of all arrests made that year. The majority of these people that are arrested are people aged from 18 to 27, the general age of most college students.
“This drug war has literally ruined the lives of millions of young people throughout the United States for no good reason at all,” Schneirov said. “It’s cost billions of dollars that could be better spent doing other things.”
As for getting the bill through the House and Senate, though, only time will tell.
“I’m going to try to get it through,” Steele said. “The reason I want to do it is that I just don’t think we should spend that kind of money in prosecution, hiring public defenders, probation departments. We have a limited amount of money and a limited amount of jail space. My sole philosophy on this is that we should spend that money and time on the people that we’re afraid of, like child molesters, rather than people that we’re mad at.”