MERRILLVILLE, Ind. — State lawmakers will soon begin studying whether Indiana should amend its drug laws to decriminalize marijuana, create a medical marijuana program or make other changes.
The Post-Tribune of Merrillville reports that the General Assembly's criminal law and sentencing policy study committee will examine different angles of the marijuana issue. The committee's first meeting is next week, though it's not clear whether marijuana laws will be discussed then or during future meetings.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, pushed for the study committee and says Indiana has “draconian” marijuana laws.
“One day, I watched three young kids plead cases on possession of small amounts,” Tallian said. “I thought, `Why are we spending all of the time and money to do this?' Frankly, I put marijuana in the same category as alcohol.”
Medical marijuana is available in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and 13 states have eliminated certain penalties for small amounts of marijuana.
Tallian said she hopes to arrange for people to speak at the meeting when the marijuana study is on the agenda.
“I've got testimony from all different groups,” she said. “They keep calling me wondering when it's going to be. I had them lined up when the bill was in the Senate — medical people, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement. There are a wide range of people interested in the topic.”
Among the state lawmakers who supported the idea of creating a study committee to examine the issue was Republican Rep. Tom Knollman of Liberty, who has multiple sclerosis. Knollman told lawmakers during the legislative session this year that he wished he could legally try the drug to see if it relieves his pain.
Knollman said at the time that he's among the most conservative of state legislators, but hopes he can be a law-abiding citizen and use one of God's plants.