MARK KIESLING: Don't bogart that joint, my lawmakers

2012-11-30T00:00:00Z 2012-12-20T21:25:34Z MARK KIESLING: Don't bogart that joint, my lawmakers nwitimes.com
November 30, 2012 12:00 am

Hostess Foods might want to reconsider closing its stores in the wake of news that Indiana's top cop would like to see marijuana decriminalized and taxed.

I tried it a time or two in college and didn't like it (marijuana, not Hostess!) but anyone who's smoked on a regular basis knows the grip of the "munchies," a desire to eat junk food after a few rounds with the loco weed.

This week, Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell told state lawmakers he'd like to see small amounts of marijuana legalized and taxed.

"It is here, it's here to stay," he said. "I do believe I would legalize it and tax it."

He's a 40-year veteran of the ISP and said, "there's an awful lot of victimization that goes with (illegal) marijuana."

"I'm glad to see it," said state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes. She said she is initially hesitant to go as far as Whitesell, though.

"I'd rather start with decriminalization, which would treat this like a traffic ticket," Tallian said. "No jail time, a fine and no criminal record.

"I know other more left-wing states just passed legalization," said Tallian, referring to recent actions by Colorado and Washington. "I just don't think Indiana is ready to go that far yet, and I don't want to go off of an edge when I don't think I can swim."

She will carry the ball for Senate Democrats, while on the GOP side of the aisle, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, will do the same.

"We work well together," she said. The question mark is the House, many of whom are newly elected.

"The answer as to whether we can cooperate with the GOP on this is yes," Tallian said. "But there are so many new faces on that side of the aisle ... I don't even know half of them.

"But I am not out in left field over this."

Not hardly. Information gathered by the Howey/DePauw Battleground Poll shows wide support across the Hoosier state for decriminalization. The Times co-sponsored this poll.

The question put to 800 likely voters in late October asked, "Do you favor or oppose making it an infraction rather than a crime to possess a small amount of marijuana?"

And by a 54-37 percent margin, respondents agreed with decriminalization, with 37 percent saying they "strongly favor" such a move.

Steele, the Republican lawmaker, is a lawyer. He said, "It's a matter of priorities, and I believe our focus should be on pursuing, prosecuting and incarcerating people who commit violent crimes, not simply people who make poor personal decisions."

It would save money in housing prisoners and building new jails. It would raise money through either taxation or fines.

There's a new "tea party" in town, and the winds are carrying a different scent.

Apparently someone forgot to put the towel in front of the door again.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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