Indiana’s state legislature is currently debating Senate Bill 192 and reviewing the state’s marijuana laws, specifically on criminal law and procedure.
Senate Bill 192 focuses primarily on marijuana’s effect on Indiana’s criminal justice system, whether marijuana should remain illegal in Indiana, the implementation of medical marijuana and if marijuana does become legal, how sales and taxation will be handled.
The Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters administered the study regarding the concerns conferred in the bill.
On Feb. 21, Bloomington’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws had attorney Steve Dillon and marijuana activist and nurse Debra Parrish come to discuss SB 192 and why Indiana should pass the bill, highlighting the issues with Indiana’s marijuana laws.
Dillon assisted in creating Indiana NORML in 1974 and has fought numerous cases regarding the inefficiencies of marijuana laws in Indiana.
After graduating from the IU Law School, Dillon decided to focus on cases protecting people against marijuana laws.
“I believe in liberty and freedom, and I felt that this was the best way to execute the
Constitution,” Dillon said.
Dillon said he believes Indiana should reform marijuana laws because of the medical benefits of marijuana, the evidence that the government can’t afford the cost of prison systems due to marijuana charges and the illegitimate procedures for convicting persons of crimes related to marijuana.
Dillon encountered a specific case in which a woman who has had multiple sclerosis for 14 years was arrested for using marijuana.
The woman tried marijuana after it was recommended by her son, and she claimed it was the only medicine that eased her pain and depression and that it helped save her life.
Similarly, Rep. Tom Knollman, R-Liberty, has testified against marijuana laws in regard to diseases like MS.
Parrish said when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, he was prescribed a drug called Marinol that soothes the nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy.
Parrish also said the active ingredient in Marinol is synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, an active ingredient in marijuana.
Dillon said legal cases and government considerations to reform marijuana laws like Indiana’s SB 192 are small steps in providing awareness of medical benefits and glitches in the criminal justice system regarding marijuana-related crimes.
Dillon said millions of people are arrested for marijuana in Indiana every year and 90 percent for possession of less than one ounce.
Since 1965, 20 million people in the United States have been arrested for marijuana, causing more than a trillion dollars in taxes on prison systems in America.
“The Indiana government knows it can’t afford putting prisoners away for marijuana.
They might not be making changes out of compassion or recreation, but economics, and that’s okay. Whatever works to make a change,” Dillon said.
Along with the high cost of marijuana convictions, Dillon said the ways in which people are convicted is illegitimate.
Dillon said when people are convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana, they are tested for carboxy-THC, which can stay in a person’s system for up to three months.
“Carboxy-THC has no relevance to impairment, but this is how they measure it,” Dillon said.
In regard to the resistance against legalizing marijuana, senior and president of NORML at IU Steve Templeton said.
“After the prohibition of marijuana in 1937, the propaganda against marijuana made it seem much more intense than it actually is.”
Parrish said one of the most important things to do right now is to educate the community.
“Knowledge without action is plain fantasy. The more you know, the more you can do. We (activists) need to educate, communicate and cooperate in order to make a change,” Parrish said.
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