State senator: Should Indiana legalize marijuana?

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A state senator is asking a question she hopes will spur debate over sentencing laws and possibly save Indiana millions of dollars: Should the state legalize marijuana?

Sen. Karen Tallian, D- Portage, is sponsoring a bill that would direct the criminal law and sentencing study committee to examine Indiana's marijuana laws next summer and come up with recommendations. Other states have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana or created programs to allow medical marijuana, and Tallian said it's time for conservative Indiana to start the discussion.

"We need to think about this," Tallian said. "We're cutting essential services out of the budget now, and it may not make sense to spend millions of dollars prosecuting marijuana cases."

Democrats are far outnumbered in the Senate, but Senate Corrections Committee Chairman Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said he would give Tallian's proposal a legislative hearing. He said the study committee could help lawmakers determine whether they should explore the issue further — but noted that even in California, a proposal to legalize marijuana for adults over 21 failed.

"Quite frankly, in a more conservative state like Indiana, I can't imagine it passing," Steele said.

Tallian's bill would direct the summer study committee to examine the issue and determine:

— Marijuana's effects on Indiana's criminal justice system.

— Whether possession and use of marijuana should continue to be illegal in Indiana and, if so, what penalties are appropriate.

— Whether Indiana should create a medical marijuana program.

— Whether marijuana should be completely legalized and treated like a controlled substance such as alcohol, with regulated sales and special taxes.

Tallian believes current sentencing is not proportionate to the crime. For possession of less than 30 grams — about an ounce — of marijuana, an offender faces up to a year in jail. Those possessing over an ounce can be sentenced to up to three years.

Tallian says there are about 10,000 to 13,000 marijuana cases each year, and that about 85 percent of those deal with possession. She had no estimates of how much the state pays to prosecute and house nonviolent marijuana offenders, but guessed Indiana could save millions.

"I'm tired of seeing people thrown in jail for what I think is something that's the equivalent of alcohol," Tallian said.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said the governor's response to Tallian's proposal was that "legislators can study whatever they choose to study. It's their decision."

More than a dozen states have decriminalized possessing small amounts marijuana by eliminating prison time or reducing penalties to a civil fine, similar to a traffic violation, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The group says 15 states and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana programs.

Tallian said the public's attitude toward marijuana is changing, but she acknowledged it can take years for controversial proposals to gain traction in the Legislature. She said her bill creating the study would simply explore the issue. Any legislation to change marijuana laws would have to wait until next year — at the earliest.

"It's just a study committee," she said.


  • marijuana legalization
    Why don't they legalize already? It's less dangerous than alcohol. The state is wasting millions of tax payers dollars to convict people on small amounts of weed. The jails are over populated as it is. Let's keep the real criMinals in there. This state is struggling we need something to kick start it again and this would do it.
    The 1937 prohibition is based on ignorance, racism and greed. It is shameful that in 2014 we are locked in that same mind set led by our Governor who is happy to prevent patients from taking safe medication and more than happy to receive dollars for locking up non-violent offenders. And, btw, cannabis is medically beneficial AND not nearly as dangerous to oneself or society as alcohol.
  • People like you are why people like us get a bad rap
    I respect you for what you do but I need you to realize that weed is not a gateway drug and its not a bad drug. The only bad drugs are man made drugs. Weed comes from a plant God made weed and according to all the bible thumpers God wouldn't make something bad. Alcohol is the only thing that should be banned between the two.
  • never in Indiana
    Are you kidding? In this backwards, neanderthal state? You cant even buy beer on Sundays in Indiana. It is the only state in the country where they prohibit the sale of cold beer in a grocery store.
    Marijuana isnt bad alchohol is, you cant die from Marijuana poisioning, but you can die from alchohol poisioning. Think of the advantages of legalizing it..., it would stop most people from dealing marijuana which would also reduce the amount of gang shootings, it would also make the state of indiana a wealthier country, legalize it!, and you will see the difference just like in oregon,colorado, and california. Every since they legalized marijuana all around those states are improving i think indiana wuoould be better than a good state it would be great state:)
  • History on Illegalizing marijuana
    If you would research into why marijuana was made illegal, it would shock you. It was made illegal because the bill to make cocaine illegal would not pass unless they added some items to the list. They added about 6 more items to the list. It was a toss between adding marijuana or caffeine. They chose to add marijuana. People were throwing a fit about it cause it was growing wild everywhere. So then our government issued a campaign against marijuana and made up sayings as "marijuana is the gate way drug". Legalizing marijuana would save our country millions of dallars just in court fees alone and housing people arrested for possession in the meantime profit our country in revenue. As I always have said, if everyone would wake up and just take one toke...the world would be a happier place!
  • IndianaLegalizeKush
    I've been smoking since i was 13. Never had a violent charge against me. I can hold a job and pay the bills. Alcohol makes people violet and it's LEGAL , give me a break. I'm in NW Indiana and marijuana needs to be legalize and decriminalized.
  • why isnt it legal already
    almost everyone i know either smokes mj or they know someone that smokes it... mainly because they know me. has anyone ever heard of someone smoking mj and going home and beating a family member because i havent but i do hear about someone being drunk and going and beating a family member. if anything the laws should be reversed to make mj legal and alcohol illegal. the most that mj will make you want to do is sit around and eat a lot of junk food. basically i feel that the only reason its still illegal is because its been illegal for so long to where the people who originally made it illegal forgot why they made it illegal. just make everyone's life better and make it like cigs and put an 18+ age restriction on it.
  • bullcrap
    Your full of it firefighter.I am a nurse and i have been around mj all of my career.Alcohol is what should be illegal, i have seen to many ill effects from alcohol.I have never seen someone who has smoked mj in the er,never.And a gateway to other drugs goes the same for alcohol idiot.
    • Legalize
      Ok probably more than half of Indiana residents smoke marijuana. The sooner people realize that the better. Marijuana isn't bad and helps many people, it can be used for illness, depression, pain, and a lot more. You don't hear about people who smoke getting in car accidents because of smoking. If something should be illegal it should be alcohol. Many different types of people smoke, business persons, cops (and yes I have known of a few), people working for the government, and many others smoke. If we were to legalize marijuana it would give Indiana more money, instead of paying money to prosecute and jail persons who have been caught. It is stupid to consider marijuana as a gate way drug. I know a lot of people who smoke or have smoked and never tried anything else. I'm just tired of people saying that marijuana is bad. It is more natural than alcohol, and prescription meds. Marijuana doesn't make you an unproductive member of society. Lots of people smoke and lead normal lives and nobody would ever realize that they smoke. Just think of the money that could benefit Indiana, and how much crime would be lowered if marijuana was legal.
    • think
      I'm not going to lie I'm a 17 year old who smokes pot and I just wanted to say kids are going to smoke if they want to smoke no matter what parents or anyone say it relives stress and brings us together it helps with problems at school concentrate on homework and kids are going to make straight A's or F's its the kid not the pant this is one of the reasons why we should legalize it for all resonsible ages.
    • non issue
      i agree entirely on the legalization and the decriminalization of marijuana. i too suffer from bipolar disorder and anxiety. i have been self medicating for 5 years now. that all came to an abrput stop nov. 1 2011. i got busted and i havent smoked since october of last year. im still trying to cope without marijuana. i still have severe insomnia and i cant eat very much of anything since i was forced to quit. i would benefit tremendously from medical marijuana
    • wake up america
      Every time you turn on the tv there is a pill being pushed for everything you can think of. The side effects of these pills are just plan crazy. My favorite is could cause death. If you say anything about a plant that has grown on this earth since the dawn of time people look at you like your a criminal. Stop calling this plant a drug it is not a drug and never has been. I completely support not just medical but all out legalization of this fine plant. The greatest product that man never made. Contact your congressman, write letters, make a phone call to help this noble cause.
    • Legalizing marijuana
      I am one person that would benefit from medical marijuana. I suffer from bipolar disorder and severe anxiety. If you need help with studies I will volunteer and help in any way I can.
      • Dude
        Firefighter medic guy you have seen alcohol and drugs but i did not hear say marijuana you said drugs if you could please share some medical facts about the drug id love to hear what you have to say medically about the drug the only reason it was illegal is because some crooked politician was rascist i am white yes and he said people become animals or crazy when i have in fact smoked plenty of times and never felt anything like that but please id love to hear what you have to say you easily deal with other drugs that are hard crack coke meth over mj and alcohol
      • Lets go
        The thing i dont understand is the government can give the people cigerattes and alcohol which have worse effects on the body than MJ but we cant smoke it thats crappy. The only reason it was viewed as a bad substance was bec the so called "reefer madness" that was used as a steping stool for some politician to get attention and vote for him. There are no medical facts about MJ ever killing a person. You would have to smoke ur body weight in mj and even if u managed to get that much ud die from lack of oxygen not THC going into ur body pass the damn law so you can make your money government and we the people can be happy and it def is not a gateway drug whoeever says that has no proof and ive seen people smoke for years and only want to smoke mj thank you
      • Come on Indiana
        I agree with so many comments. I personally have had to use cannabis for many years due to health issues. I have avoided many prescriptions and live with quality. It does not effect any part of my life in a negative manner. In fact it has improved my quality of life. Yet I am the criminal. Never been arrested, do not do other drugs, and live a normal healthy life. It really has to do with $$$$, government and Pharmaceuticals, not to mention CONTROL. Please pass legalization and decriminalization
      • Finally common sense
        Finally we have law makers with common sense! Thank You to the law makers willing to at least explore this topic. We in America legalize alcohol which causes much more havoc on society than any cannabis ever could, yet law makers do not see that we spend millions to prosecute, imprison and feed offenders of marijuana law. Not to mention that an outright legalization would greatly reduce crime all around. Think of what could happen if the entire country gets some common sense, no more smugglers from Mexico, no more Mexican cartels trafficking across the border because there would be no demand for illegal pot. Not to mention the jobs legalization could create. I do not even smoke the stuff but can see the benefits to an economy would be great.
      • Marijuana Reform
        I am so sick of hearing the "marijuana is a gateway drug" statement. Drugs don't make you want different drugs. The reason the government can say this is in fact because marijuana is illegal. The reason SOME people that use marijuana end up using worse drugs is because they get it from the guy who sells crack, cocaine, heroine ect. Drug dealers push drugs to make money and pot is not the "big money" drug. So what do you think they try to get customers to do? If pot were legal, then people wouldn't need drug dealers and therefore no gateway. Do you really think people who smoke pot for the first time think "wow this is great I should try some heroine". If that is the case then I guess the president is a heroine addict. Stop Lying to yourselves and America
      • To David the FireFighter
        I have much respect for your service to our community david, there are FF in my family. However, you can't blame marijuana for folks who have gone on to abuse worse drugs. That excuses all personal responsibility to say that pot made them do it. That is such a farce. It would be like a cheating husband or wife saying, "The alcohol made me do it."
      • Give Jehova Thanks and Praises
        Ok, now those who are for decriminalizing it, if you are going to post about it, get your spelling right because you aren't helping prove a good point when your spelling is worse then my little sisters. I don't believe it ever should have been made illegal in the first place, multi-national wealthy companies and the U.S. Gov't all used scare tactics and racism to get it prohibited in the first place. God told us we could have all seed bearing plants to consume how ever we see fit. If don't believe me then read Genesis. we all know, and not just kind of know, everyone who has ever done any actual research on hemp knows there is no negativity attached to that plant at all other than the wicked gov't propganda.
      • ???
        we are not gonna make no eveeryone happy EVER! why cant they jus take a chance? what cant it hurt? how many people die from weed? uhh NOONE!! heres kids and adults that jus smoke a joint to relax jus like alcohol.. dosent mean there bad people? i knew kids that smoked everyday and making strait A's and going to AWESOME SCHOOLS.. the state would make SOO much money and i think it Could be handled alot easier than put innicent people in prison for somking a lil joint.. like really? we have soo much power if you cant control a lil weed than maybe alcohol should be treated the same..
        • we've lost our minds
          to legalize marajuana is nut's. I worked in this state as a firefighter/medic for years. I have seen what drugs and booze has done to those who abuse it. One wonders why we would want to legalize a drug that in the past has started the path to those who abuse it down the road to more hardened drugs.
          • legalize it
            we should not tax it we should be able to grow ,prosess ,and distribute amoung areseves by use of the barder system there should not b any form of penalty for any form of marijuana thats like saying we can go to jail for growing corn or selling anything grown from the beautiful earth i am soon to be in the mongomery courts for possesion of one joint and the reason for my use is because i fell 30 feet to an almost concreat death i was fourtunate to live but had broke my elbow foot and nerly ripped off my hand both bones were out of my skin iv had many surgeries and im not perscribed to any legal medication or narcotic and would rather not be so please lets do all we can to decrimalize the most beautiful plant know to man it is a merical plant that saves lives please keep me out of jail or prisin and out of outstanding pain
          • never gonna happen
            Its to late the end of the world started decades ago
          • Legalize it
            It seems everywhere you go to find information about this subject you will find more supporters for legalization than opponents for it. There are so many pro's to legalizing marijuana and it just seems that the cons are so weak in comparison. The real terrible thing involved with this senseless prohibition is the fact that getting caught with it can really derail your life...
            • Seriously, why not
              Since the people, americans, choose to smoke marijuana, shouldn't it be our decision whether we do it or not? There is NOT A SINGLE MAN MADE MEDICATION THAT MAKE ME PAIN FREE, God made marijuana, who are you to say something God made should be illegal? You can od on nicotine, alcohol and pain meds, you CAN NOT OD ON MARIJUANA, ITS IMPOSSIBLE. Now state senators, tell me again why marijuana is illegal but everything else is? Think about what I have said and stop thinking about you for once, think about the people that make this state what it is.
            • OneLove
              It's a shame that this is going on. Some day we will look back at this like prohibition of alcohol. It's just silly. If we could spend the dollars on preventing meth, cocaine, ecstasy, opium, amphetamines the crime rate would drop drastically. Amsterdam legalized and crime rate dropped 85 percet Getyour heads out of your butts Americans.
            • idiots.
              Its pretty damn stupid if you ask me
            • How is Tabacco legal then?
              If Tabacco is legal why wouldn't marijuana legal? odd.
              • pro marijuana
                You shouldn't have to feel that way and you should never have lost your job.I am personally ashamed of this states stance on marijuana and its laws.I believe you and many others in your situation should be reinbursed for your time and money and as far as i'm concerned are owed an apology by the state.
              • pro marijuana
                Thank you! If more White collar people like yourself would stand up for what is right we as a State would be much more productive and more insync with the rest of the country.
              • Legalize it.
                Personally I have never smoked marijuana but I have a close family friend that has. She has RA and she was in so much pain and she could barely do day to day actives. When they put her on chemo, she was so sick. She would go three for four with out eating because she couldn't keep anything down. Thats when she started smoking weed. The weed made it so she could eat, without throwing it back up. She told her doctor and he told her off the record that smoking marijuana helped put her into remission. And to this day she still in remission and still smokes.
              • Legalize it, period
                I'm white collar, I graduated from Purdue, have a family, never been in trouble with the law, and I provide jobs to over 70 people in Indiana. Legalize it! Don't waste my tax dollars. I know tons of professionals that agree with me but everyone is afraid to speak up. They think they'll lose their job or be targeted by law enforcement.
                • This is not a partisan issue; it is a compassion issue.
                  Marijuana has never caused a single medically documented overdose death — unlike Tylenol, which causes about 500 overdose deaths a year in the U.S. alone.
                  LEGALIZE IT!!! Quit wasting tax payer money & overpopulating the judicial system, saves time & money to prosecute more serious crimes. This is an outdated law & belief system about marijuana~ American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society all endorse and support legal medical marijuana access for the seriously ill~ Its high time Indiana does too!!!
                • SORRY
                  I have bad grammar but I didn't look over it after I completed it.
                • Your money
                  You're tax dollars go to my probation fees.
                  I was told that I was laid off for "down sizing" even though I almost had a management position. I was honest with my boss and my staffing agency that I was busted for marijuana. I later called my boss to see how she had been and if she could help me find some work elsewhere and told me I was fired for "suspicious Activity". Since I was laid off I am now receiving unemployment. Of course I had to forfeit my last paycheck to my bail. I forfeited my Tax check to attorney fees because I didn't get a state appointed one because I had a job at the time of my initial hearing. So now my unemployment is whats keeping me from going to jail... I have to do a drug evaluation and 40 hours of community service. The cop had lied to me and told me he wasn't going to charge me or take me to jail if I didn't lie to him. I was honest told him it was mine and where it was at. He let us go but later that week there was a cop knocking on my door at 3AM saying he had a warrant for my arrest. I wasn't in jail for long but because of how long it took them to move me from each county I had missed work. My staffing agency and boss worked hard on covering up my absenteeism but I'm sure it was because some how someone found out I was arrested. My family was shocked! My neighborhood thinks I'm a criminal who's going to rob or kill them. I would never do either one! No one should ever be treated this way. I feel shunned and abandoned for my choice.
                  • Would be dead without it
                    Im currently undergoing some of the heaviest doses of chemo from drugs such as VP16,iphosphomide,among many other.(about 3 others). Marijuana is the only reason i can handle my chemo's side effects and continue to figt the disease. my fight would be even easier if my doctor could know about my self medicating,or could prescribe it. Reefer madness is over people. It never existed
                  • yes i agree
                    i share the same oppion tht u do. they would save money and the ression would be done if they tax marijuna like tobacco. no more crimes for possion and they prison sysytem would be filled with dangerous offiders not marijuna chargess. Also if they legalize it they should make tobacco illegal cuz tht kill more people then any other drug. Legalize it!!!!!
                  • Great idea
                    Indiana spends millions prosecuting, jailing, feeding and taking care of peoples medical coverage while in jail just for having pot. Its ridiculous. Nobody ever held up a Village Pantry or robbed a bank to get money for weed. They dont normally stray into oncoming traffic and kill a family of 4 either. Legalize it!!
                    • Legalize drugs
                      They should legalize all drugs. The farmer, wholesaler,processor,retailer would all pay taxas it goes throughthe system. You would know who is useing. Whoops, Lawyers and courts would be cut out. Won't do that.
                    • Now
                      It's time to talk about this.
                    • We the people... a thing of the past.
                      I feel the people have little, if any power to shape laws, unless it's for taking liberties
                      away from the people, then lawmakers are happy to ablidge. Our history and the worlds history tell future generations the short-comings of the past.
                      I know that if the law is changed, that it won't be for the people, but rather for the
                      government happiness. Deny us truth, health, peace and rights. People in the government hide facts to support their will. You must become brutally honest, or else more brutal in your efferts to controll people.
                      I am against hard drugs that do not benefit the people. Marijuana is not a hard drug and should not be listed with them. A lie is to say marijuana should be a Schedule 1 Drug, according to DEA.

                    • Yes they should
                      When I was young I grew up around heroin addicts and crack heads. I have seen those drugs get much less recognition than marijuana by law enforcement and the media. Those drugs actually ruin lives yet marijuana gets all the heat. Marijuana is harmless and helps people in unimaginable ways. Legalization would stop crime associated with the plant. I could go for hours on the reality of the situation but Ill keep it short and sweet. Legalize it!!!
                    • DUH
                      it would be nice. legalize it . save indiana mony and save me money so i dont have to move out of this very misguided state. GO COLORADO
                    • PLEASE
                      Medical marijuana is needed in everystate so i dont have to take xanax and pain killers and mood stabalizers and all the other messed up pharmacy drugs when alls i need to do is smoke marijuana to enhance my being
                    • about time
                      I am a white collar professional speaker. I have never been caught with it and have chosen to use it since I was in my late teens. I use it to relax, calm nerves and sustain a level mood at times. No one would ever guess that I smoke marijuana. I am not a criminal by any means. It is about time, especially just for the money savings to the state of indiana.
                    • legalize it!
                      LEGALIZE IT!
                    • How Can Mitch Veto THIS?
                      I'm all for decriminalizing marijuana and even legalizing possession of small amounts. I'm 55 and haven't smoked the stuff since the 70s, but I see no value in jailing people for it. Heck, we can't even manage to keep career criminals in jail so they can't kill cops. Either way, since Mitch got busted for possession in 1970, how does he veto this one without looking like a total hypocrite?
                    • mixed
                      In a state that just outlawed smoking in all private/public business' (except bars) we consider this. You have to admit it is a bit of contradiction. My mistake we always have brownies (smile).
                    • Fear
                      Good, I'm glad someone is finally looking into this. A few states have been doing this now with some success, it's time.
                    • legalize it
                      Im for medicinal use. Look at colorado and all the people it helps. Look at the millions in tax dollars that the state uses from it as well.
                    • legalize it
                      Joe, I personally don't touch the stuff but I completely agree with you.
                    • not even an issue!
                      It has been proven how little negative impact marijuana has on the community. This is only a 1700's morality issue dreamed up by self involved politicians! Legalize it and move on to something important!

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                    1. You are correct that Obamacare requires health insurance policies to include richer benefits and protects patients who get sick. That's what I was getting at when I wrote above, "That’s because Obamacare required insurers to take all customers, regardless of their health status, and also established a floor on how skimpy the benefits paid for by health plans could be." I think it's vital to know exactly how much the essential health benefits are costing over previous policies. Unless we know the cost of the law, we can't do a cost-benefit analysis. Taxes were raised in order to offset a 31% rise in health insurance premiums, an increase that paid for richer benefits. Are those richer benefits worth that much or not? That's the question we need to answer. This study at least gets us started on doing so.

                    2. *5 employees per floor. Either way its ridiculous.

                    3. Jim, thanks for always ready my stuff and providing thoughtful comments. I am sure that someone more familiar with research design and methods could take issue with Kowalski's study. I thought it was of considerable value, however, because so far we have been crediting Obamacare for all the gains in coverage and all price increases, neither of which is entirely fair. This is at least a rigorous attempt to sort things out. Maybe a quixotic attempt, but it's one of the first ones I've seen try to do it in a sophisticated way.

                    4. In addition to rewriting history, the paper (or at least your summary of it) ignores that Obamacare policies now must provide "essential health benefits". Maybe Mr Wall has always been insured in a group plan but even group plans had holes you could drive a truck through, like the Colts defensive line last night. Individual plans were even worse. So, when you come up with a study that factors that in, let me know, otherwise the numbers are garbage.

                    5. You guys are absolutely right: Cummins should build a massive 80-story high rise, and give each employee 5 floors. Or, I suppose they could always rent out the top floors if they wanted, since downtown office space is bursting at the seams (http://www.ibj.com/article?articleId=49481).