As the tide of marijuana attitudes changes, sweeping over the nation and generally leaving lesser penalties and a lower stigma in its wake, Indiana is somehow missing the boat. According to the Associated Press, a committee of state senators recently voted to approve changes to the state’s criminal sentencing laws, including a provision that would increase penalties for some marijuana possession cases.
The Senate’s Corrections and Criminal Law Committee was working to change several aspects of the criminal laws in Indiana, but the change to marijuana punishments seems to be a change in the wrong direction.
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Passed by a vote of 8-1, the proposed changes have a long way to go before becoming law, but there are indications it could make it all the way through the lawmaking process.
Basically, the law would decrease the threshold for which a marijuana possession case went from being charged as a misdemeanor to being charged as a felony.
Currently, if you are charged with possession of any amount less than 50 pounds, you face misdemeanor charges in the state. The Committee determined that possession of between about one-third of an ounce and 10 pounds should be classified as the lowest level felony, rather than the highest level misdemeanor, where it is now.
“That’s about a $50,000 street value,” said David Powell of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, who supports the change. “You know that’s not for personal use.”
While Powell may be onto something, that few people would possess 10 pounds of pot for personal use, what he’s missing is the fact that what he is referring to (having marijuana with the intent to sell or share it), can be charged as another crime altogether (possession with intent to sell), really negating the need to change the current possession charge at all.
In addition to the possible marijuana change, the committee has also recommended changes be made that would help the lowest-level offenders have access to work release while those convicted of more serious crimes would be likely to spend more time in prison.
They scrapped a plan that would have increased the percentage of a sentence that someone would be mandated to serve, from 50% (where it currently stands), to 75%, determining that increasing the sentence length would remove some of the incentive for inmates to behave better while behind bars.
It’s not unusual for lawmakers to make decisions that seem to fly in the face of nationwide trends or have no seeming respect for what it is the people want. They often seem to run their own show. This particular bill has a long way to go before becoming law, which means there is time to contact local lawmakers and let them know you don’t want marijuana penalties increased.
In the meantime, if you are charged with a marijuana offense, know that you have rights and all is not lost. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.