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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

politics

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to not instate blanket pardons for minor marijuana offenses 

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On Oct.17, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he won’t show leniency to Indiana residents for minor marijuana offenses, despite President Biden’s request for governors to consider state- level pardons.

The Biden administration announced a plan to pardon thousands of offenders convicted for simple marijuana possession at the federal level on Oct. 6., according to a statement from the White House. Other states governors have taken action in response to Biden’s statement, though, many do not have the authority to pardon. Some, like Holcomb, have said they do not plan to instate blanket pardons for people with minor marijuana convictions.   

“The President should work with Congress, not around them, to discuss changes to the law federally,” Holcomb said in a statement to WTHR.  

Though Holcomb’s statement does not signal support for total decriminalization, he agrees that many minor marijuana offenses are not deserving of life sentences after an individual has served their time. 

RELATED: ["Candidates discuss marijuana, infant mortality rates at second Indiana gubernatorial debate"]

Indiana’s current law states that those who are convicted of possession will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. The charge escalates to a level Six felony if the person has a prior conviction for a drug offense and possesses at least 30 grams of marijuana.  

Despite the strict Indiana code, Monroe County has taken steps to reduce the amount of judicial resources allocated for simple possession marijuana offenses. Yet, in a 2019 statement, Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant stated that she cannot legally issue a blanket refusal to prosecute possession charges, though she supports decriminalization.  

A 2020 Monroe County Criminal Justice and Incarceration Study found that 80% of marijuana cases end before incarceration through the Pretrial Diversion Program. The program may require individuals to participate in alcohol and drug education courses and substance abuse prevention programs, according to the Prosector’s website

RELATED: ["Dispensaries in Bloomington sell products containing THC and CBD"]

The Pretrial Diversion Program aids in reducing jail and prison overcrowding due to minor drug offenses, which is a persisting problem in Monroe County. The same 2020 study found the daily inmate population of Monroe County Jail has exceeded its functional capacity every day on most days since 2004 and all days per year consecutively since 2015. 

In 2021, 39% of all reported drug-related arrests in Indiana were specific to marijuana, though this figure is an undercount.  

The Biden administration has acknowledged marijuana arrests account for a large part of jail and prison overcrowding, which is a large reason for the federal pardon. 

“Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” Biden said.  

Hoosiers should not expect state pardons or for Indiana marijuana statutes to change following Gov. Holcomb’s statement.

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