INDIANAPOLIS | State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, is upset Indiana will not be joining the increasing number of states that have decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Tallian's Senate Bill 580, which would have made possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana the equivalent of a traffic ticket, will not be heard by the Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law before Wednesday's deadline for Senate committee action.
That means the legislation is likely dead for the remainder of the 2013 legislative session.
"I don't understand why they refused to even hear it. We have certainly heard some really idiotic bills in that committee," Tallian said. "I consider this a very serious issue."
Currently a Hoosier caught with up to 2 ounces of marijuana, or approximately one to 60 joints, can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Tallian's legislation would change that to a Class C infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
"This is not a legalization; this is just keeping our kids out of jail," Tallian said.
The committee chairman, state Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said he wasn't trying to kill Tallian's proposal, he just didn't have enough time to review the issue upon taking charge of the committee in November.
"The marijuana bill is pretty important public policy and I personally don't feel comfortable because I don't have the facts or the research on any of the issues on this, pro or con," Young said. "I think giving it a one-hour hearing when it's going to affect people's lives or maybe put people's lives in danger — I didn't feel comfortable with doing that."
Young said he's spoken with Tallian and promised to review marijuana decriminalization research in time for the 2014 legislative session, though he did not guarantee a hearing to consider her proposal.
Fourteen states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, including Ohio. Voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures in November legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.