Indiana is behind the times with regard to its marijuana laws, and Hoosiers and Senate Democrats are ready for change. While Indiana remains one of 14 states to only allow CBD use, 27 states have decriminalized marijuana, 23 states have a medical marijuana program and 12 states have fully legalized the plant. Our neighbor, Ohio, ended jail time for small amounts of marijuana back in 1975. In Indiana, ending jail time for marijuana remains a popular opinion. In 2018, the Ball State Hoosier Survey found that 78 % of Hoosiers were in favor of ending jail time for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Marijuana possession continues to be the second-highest arrested crime in our state. In 2018, there were over 22,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Indiana. All of these arrests tend to disproportionately impact our minority communities. In 2019 alone, almost 60% of people in Indiana prisons for drug-related offenses were black or Latino.
In addition, Indiana’s high rate of marijuana arrests contributes heavily to the state’s jail overcrowding problem. Jails are running out of space to house inmates, and building new jails is cost-prohibited. In 2018, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute reported that over 77% of Indiana’s jails were at capacity or overcrowded. If Indiana made possession of small amounts of marijuana a simple infraction, we could provide some relief for these overcrowded jails.
The Senate Democrats have continued their efforts to end jail time for small amounts of marijuana. This year, Senate Democrats introduced three bills in an attempt to update Indiana’s outdated cannabis laws. Senator Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) proposed Senate Bill (SB) 114, which would have completely ended jail time for the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) proposed SB 86, which would have provided a defense for the possession of less than two ounces of medical marijuana as long as the person had a valid prescription. Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) proposed SB 103, which would have legalized the possession of medical marijuana for individuals who are suffering from a terminal illness. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked all three proposals by failing to give them committee hearings.
Senate Democrats will continue to fight for what Hoosiers want and push legislation to reform our antiquated cannabis laws. We will share your voices and make sure Republican legislators understand these two mandates loud and clear: No more jail time for Hoosiers who possess small amounts of marijuana and no more criminal records.