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GARY — City Councilwoman at-large Ragen Hatcher said she is eyeing an ordinance that decriminalizes marijuana within the city’s limits.

“It’s been a hindrance, especially to the African-American community,” Hatcher said during Wednesday night’s Gary City Council meeting.

Hatcher said she wanted to make a lasting impact on Gary citizens before she leaves at the end of the year to be sworn-in as state representative in District 3.

“As a prior prosecutor here in Lake County, in the city of Gary court, two of the biggest charges I saw were handgun, no permit, or possession or marijuana,” Hatcher said. “And that gave 18, 19, 21 year olds their first criminal conviction, very young. And that follows you throughout your life.”

At a recent National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials conference in Miami, Florida, Hatcher said she learned how political leaders in other states took small steps to decriminalize the drug in cities where marijuana was still illegal.  

“We know it’s not legal in Indiana. But we’re saying if somebody is caught with marijuana, then instead of going through the one- to two-hour process of arresting that person, going through evidence and testing, that person would get a ticket, a city ordinance violation,” Hatcher said.

Benefits include fewer people tied in the criminal justice system for minor infractions and reductions in police departments’ case loads, she said. 

A draft ordinance sets the fine at $100 if the person is in possession of 30 grams of less.

Hatcher said she would like to discuss the draft ordinance with the city’s police chief and mayor’s office before formally presenting it for a vote.

At least one councilman — Councilman at-large Herb Smith — said he would gladly co-sponsor the bill. 

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.