Indiana's marijuana policy could shift

Nov 28, 2012

In the wake of the Indiana State Police chief’s comments appearing to support marijuana legalization, a Hoosier political analyst says a shift in the state’s marijuana policy could be moving from theory to fact.  

Asked during a state budget committee hearing his stance on decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession, State Police Chief Paul Whitesell said he thought the drug should be legalized and taxed.  Later, the State Police issued a statement distancing itself from Whitesell’s comments, saying the chief simply understands the theoretical arguments. 

But earlier this year, Senate Judiciary Committee chair Brent Steele proposed making possession of less than ten grams of marijuana a civil infraction, with those in possession subject only to a fine.  Steele argues the state should spend its resources more wisely on addressing violent crimes. 

Indiana University political scientist Edward Carmines said  the fiscal argument is how the marijuana decriminalization issue can make it past the ideology stage.

"What is exactly the tradeoff in terms of reasonable laws that prohibit drug use versus does it really make sense to expend a lot of resources on trying to prevent modest amounts of marijuana use," Carmines said.

Carmines said it’s possible Indiana will wait to see how other states proceed before acting…but concedes the push has more momentum than ever before.