Across America, there has been an ever growing movement to legalize the drug cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana, for both medical and recreational use. While the movement seemed to be going nowhere but to jail for decades, in recent years many pro-marijuana regulations, especially those regarding medical marijuana use, have been signed into effect all over the country. Indiana remains one of the states that outright prohibits the use or possession of marijuana, even to those who have medical marijuana cards issued by other states. The question is, is Indiana ready for a change in marijuana policy?
Ashley Henderson, a senior at IU South Bend, agrees with the principles of medical marijuana, but isn’t convinced that a policy legalizing its use would work out so well.
“If a patient has a legitimate need for marijuana for medicinal purposes, I don’t think they should be denied of the use,” said Henderson. “But I think there needs to be a serious overhaul of the legal system to make sure that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands. I don’t think we, as a state, are ready for it just yet.”
Chris Washington, also a senior at IUSB is familiar with the idea of medical marijuana legalization, as he wrote a persuasive speech on it for his speech class at IUSB.
“I believe that all states will eventually turn towards allowing medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. With the popularity of (California attempted legalization law) Proposition 19, more and more states will follow suit and will try to pass bills similar to that of California’s Proposition 19. It will eventually become a reality.”
Medical marijuana and laws regarding the possession of the use of marijuana have been debated ever since they first appeared. While the first federal level prohibition of marijuana was put into effect in 1937, the first state-wide prohibition law that criminalized the possession and cultivation of hemp was passed in 1913 by California. Ironically, California would become the first state to allow the use of medical marijuana, when 56% of voters in the state approved Proposition 215 in 1996. The law removed the state penalties on the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana for those who have documented or verbal recommendation from a physician that marijuana would benefit their health.
Since 1996, 15 states have passed laws allowing the regulated use of medical marijuana. There is still a legal limit to how much marijuana you are allowed to possess and cultivate at a time under these laws. Certain cities have even passed medical marijuana laws even though their states have not, most interestingly including the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia (D.C.). In California, Proposition 19, which would have legalized (to an extent) the recreational use of marijuana, was defeated by a small margin of 53.5% to 46.6% on November 2, 2010. But just a month earlier on October 1, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation to reduce the penalty of possession for an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. In Alaska, possession of up to an ounce, by anyone, is legally tolerated.
So with many parts of the country starting to shift in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, especially medical marijuana, how long will it be before Indiana jumps aboard the ship? Or would a medical marijuana bill proposed in Indiana end up sinking like an anchor? Within the last few weeks, a new Indiana bill has been blowing wind into the medical marijuana sails.
Introducing Indiana Senate Bill 192. Proposed by Senator Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes), the bill received its initial hearing on February 15. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, “S.B. 192 will require the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee to evaluate Indiana’s marijuana laws, discuss alternatives, and make recommendations on: (1) what the appropriate marijuana possession penalties should be (if any), (2) whether and how to implement a medical marijuana program, and (3) whether marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol.”
On February 21, the bill was passed in the state senate by a vote of 28 to 21. The next step in the process will be for S.B. 192 to be heard by a committee in the Indiana House. If the House decides to acknowledge the bill, the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee will spend time over the next year looking into what laws regarding the criminalization of marijuana and possible use of medical marijuana should be reformed.
Dante Decanini, a former IUSB student, supports the bill, and believes it shows great political progress. “I think that would be a step in the right direction. The benefits of medical marijuana use are evident and I believe crime rates in South Bend would be significantly less staggering if minor possession was decriminalized,” said Decanini. In regards to decriminalization, Decanini is very outspoken. “Somebody minding their own business and causing no harm does not need to be sent to jail for possessing a minimal amount of what already grows naturally from the ground.”