Rushville Republican

News

December 6, 2012

Lawmakers may favor lower penalties for pot over legalization

RUSHVILLE — The head of the Indiana State Police may have surprised legislators last week when he told a state budget committee that he personally favored legalizing marijuana, but the push to re-think Indiana’s pot laws isn’t new.

A legislative commission set up three years ago to review Indiana’s criminal code is recommending that the Indiana General Assembly overhaul the state’s drug laws to reduce penalties for low-level marijuana and other drug crimes.

The commission’s recommendations don’t include legalizing pot or even decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug. But they do call for reducing some felony-level marijuana crimes down to misdemeanors, which would significantly reduce penalties.

Under current Indiana law, for example, anyone caught for the second time possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana (about 20 to 30 joints) can be charged with a class D felony, which carries a one-to-five year prison term. The commission calls for a second-time offense to be a class A misdemeanor, with no more a year’s jail time.

In addition to pushing for some less-harsh laws for low-level marijuana offenses, the commission is also calling for Indiana legislators to create a new felony crime which would allow police to go after the “grow houses” - large-scale operations where marijuana is illegally grown and manufactured in bulk.

The recommendations were crafted by a work group of the Indiana Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, whose members included judges, legislators, prosecutors, public defenders, probation and prison officials.

The commission ended its work in October, but its recommendations are likely to be contained in a sweeping  sentencing reform bill to be introduced in the 2013 session.

The proposed changes are finding some traction among the Republicans who control the Statehouse and who cite concerns about the rising costs of prosecuting and incarcerating low-level drug offenders. Drug offenses have accounted for much of the rise in Indiana’s prison population over the last 20 years, according to Department of Correction numbers.

“I think we have to do something different than what we’ve been doing,” said state Rep. Heath VanNatter, a conservative Republican from Kokomo. “We need to be spending our prison dollars more effectively than putting people away for minor violations like some kid caught with a joint in his pocket.”

Indiana doesn’t appear to be posed to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington, where voters passed measures in November to allow adults to have small amounts of marijuana.

After Indiana State Police Paul Whitesell made his surprise comments at a state budget committee hearing last week, when he said that if it was up to him, he’d legalize marijuana and tax its sales, Indiana’s newly elected governor slapped down the idea.

In a statement released to the Associated Press, a spokeswoman for Governor-elect Mike Pence said Pence opposes decriminalizing marijuana.

That may put a damper on a proposal put forth by state Sen. Brent Steele, the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The conservative Republican wants to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, turning possession of 10 grams or less into an infraction, which is akin to a speeding ticket.

Steele is expected to carry the Senate version of the sentencing reform bill that will propose other changes to the state’s marijuana laws that may mirror much what the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission proposed.

For example, Steele has already indicated he supports the idea of doing away with the “drug zone” laws that enhance penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana or other drugs within 1000 feet of a school, daycare center or park.

Like VanNatter, Steele cites rising costs to the criminal justice system from low-level drug offenders who may be better served by community-based treatment programs.

Joel Schumm, an Indiana University law professor, said Indiana legislators may be emboldened by what other states have done in recent years to lower drug penalties. Both Ohio and Kentucky, for example, have lowered their penalties while giving prosecutors and judges more discretion to send drug offenders into treatment programs.

“They’ve seen that other states have loosened their laws and terrible things haven’t happened,” Schumm said.

 

1
Text Only
News
  • Air assault helps control Yosemite wildfire PLYMOUTH, Calif. (AP) - Officials in Yosemite National Park say a relentless air assault helped limit the spread of a wildfire that has forced the evacuation of about 100 homes and sent smoke into Yosemite Valley.Park spokesman Scott Gediman says the

    July 29, 2014

  • Briefs ObituariesDavid W. Craven, 53Ronald D. Hillebrand Sr., 75Thanks!The Rushville Republican thanks the following persons for their subscription to and support of this newspaper:Dale HartwellCharles GratzerSenator Coats’ staff coming to RushvilleU.S. Sen

    July 29, 2014

  • Tornado damages city north of Boston REVERE, Mass. (AP) - A storm system that wreaked havoc across the eastern U.S. spawned a tornado just north of Boston on Monday, causing extensive damage in the coastal city of Revere, where roofs were ripped off buildings and dozens of large trees w

    July 29, 2014

  • nws-rv072914-BBC logo Rushville is finalist for award MUNCIE - Building Better Communities (BBC), the outreach and engagement division at Ball State University, today announced nine finalists of the 2014 Primacy of Place Community Awards Program (PoPCAP.)The program, launched in 2013 by BBC and the Indi

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws-rv072914-Hogsett pic Hogsett to join Bose McKinney & Evans INDIANAPOLIS – The law firm of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is pleased to announce that Joseph H. Hogsett will join the firm effective August 1, 2014 as a partner in the litigation practice group, concentrating on internal investigations and corporate a

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Amphitheater to get new structure After the concert series winds down for the season, things are looking bright for a new shelter near the Riverside Park Amphitheater.With the help of Farm Credit and other sponsors, a new permanent shelter will be built to replace the tent that has b

    July 29, 2014

  • RCS and Chamber working together for kids The foundation for a new collaboration between Rush County Schools and the Rush County Chamber of Commerce was recently laid at a reception held by the Chamber board of directors for members of the Board of Education. “It didn’t really take long for

    July 25, 2014

  • Briefs ObituariesDavid W. Craven, 53Ouida Jaunice Howington, 84Kenneth L. King, 62Aaron Lee Meal, 40Thanks!The Rushville Republican thanks the following persons for their subscription to and support of this newspaper:Bowles Barber ShopFrances MozingoDo you

    July 25, 2014

  • rv 072514 cutout sundae July 25 National Hot Fudge Sundae Day Today is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day! A sundae is the perfect treat to enjoy on a summer night. The cold ice cream paired with a warm, chocolate topping is one of the most delicious combinations known to man. Add some nuts, whipped cream, and cherr

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pope meets Christian sentenced to death for faith ROME (AP) - Pope Francis met privately Thursday with a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, blessing the woman as she cradled her infant born just weeks ago in prison.The Vatican characterized the

    July 25, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.