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Senators Up Marijuana Penalties To Appease The Governor

A Senate committee made changes Thursday to marijuana penalties in a bill that aims to overhaul the state's criminal code.

joint

Photo: arizonamedicalmarijuanablog.com

The changes were made to ease Gov. Pence's concerns that Indiana was becoming too soft on crime.

Sponsors of legislation overhauling the state’s criminal code hope changes made to marijuana penalties Thursday will help ease Governor Mike Pence’s concerns.

One of the goals of the criminal code revision legislation is to reduce penalties for low-level, first-time drug offenses in an effort to focus more on rehabilitation. But Pence waded into the debate last week, expressing concern the bill was not tough enough on drug crimes.

After changes by a Senate committee Thursday, the bill still reduces overall sentences for low-level drug crimes, but it reduces marijuana penalties less.

Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) says the marijuana sentences were set at the bill’s original levels to keep them proportionate to other crimes.

“This was an increase just to satisfy Governor Pence and his idea that this was somehow a soft on drug crime bill,” he says. “I just don’t think it was necessary.”

Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford), the bill’s sponsor, says the change will help make the bill’s passage smoother in the General Assembly.

“If anybody had any reluctance to vote for it because they thought it was being too soft, I think maybe those fears have been alleviated,” he says.

The bill passed the committee and now heads to Senate Appropriations.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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  • Robert

    How ignorant! Why increase penalties on marijuana? Lets just throw alcohol and tobacco users and the manufactures in prison because those two drugs are dangerous. How many deaths from marijuana have happened? Hmmm? Exactly none. Why are we still promoting alcohol and tobacco. Lets make a safer choice and vote yes to marijuana, no to alcohol and tobacco. Wipe the slate clean already, get your senate heads out of your butts and tell the truth about marijuana. Over half the U.S. population uses marijuana. That half knows the truth, the other… ignorance. Lets help our country with a billion dollar product that has endless uses and grows world wide. Stop throwing non violent and innocent hard working Americans in jail and prison over a safer recreational drug. Much safer than the top 2 recreational drugs.. tobacco and alcohol.

  • Robert

    To say that marijuana has been given a bad rap over the past few decades is an understatement. If you’re like most Americans, you have been led to believe that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug that has destroyed the lives of millions of teens and adults. You have been encouraged to believe that marijuana causes lung cancer and is a “gateway” to harder drugs. The government has even tried to convince you that most people who use marijuana are losers who sit around on couches all day doing nothing.

    What we would like to do is wipe the slate clean and start over. Forget everything you have heard in the past and be open-minded to the truth about marijuana. We are not here to tell you that it is without harms or is some kind of miracle drug. We simply hope you will come to understand that it is far, far less harmful than what your government has told you.

    Part of the problem is that many people are simply unfamiliar with marijuana. They have never tried it (or perhaps only tried it a time or two decades ago) and assume the worst. They have been conditioned to think that marijuana use is bad and that people who use it are dangerous or strange or maybe even dirty. They have visions of people using marijuana and being totally zonked out, unable to maintain a regular conversation.

    The truth is that marijuana is widely used in a manner quite similar to alcohol. Adults might consume it before enjoying a dinner party with friends. Friends might have a little before engaging in a spirited game of ultimate Frisbee. And spouses – yes, even some couples you know – might imbibe a bit while enjoying a romantic evening together. Concert-goers have even been known to have a puff or two before or during a show – which more likely than not results in them dancing or otherwise enjoying the music, not lying on the ground like lumps.

    None of this is “bad” or “wrong” or “immoral.” It is simply something that these responsible adults choose to do. And frequently it is something they choose to do specifically instead of alcohol. And for good reason! Alcohol is more toxic, more addictive, more harmful to the body, more likely to result in injuries, and more likely to lead to interpersonal violence than marijuana.

  • Robert

    Safer for the Consumer

    Many people die from alcohol use. Nobody dies from marijuana use.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 37,000 annual U.S. deaths, including more than 1,400 in Colorado, are attributed to alcohol use alone (i.e. this figure does not include accidental deaths). On the other hand, the CDC does not even have a category for deaths caused by the use of marijuana.

    People die from alcohol overdoses. There has never been a fatal marijuana overdose. The official publication of the Scientific Research Society,American Scientist, reported that alcohol is one of the most toxic drugs and using just 10 times what one would use to get the desired effect could lead to death. Marijuana is one of – if not the – least toxic drugs, requiring thousands of times the dose one would use to get the desired effect to lead to death. This “thousands of times” is actually theoretical, since there has never been a case of an individual dying from a marijuana overdose. Meanwhile, according to the CDC, hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths occur the United States each year.

    The health-related costs associated with alcohol use far exceed those for marijuana use. Health-related costs for alcohol consumers are eight times greater than those for marijuana consumers, according to an assessment recently published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal. More specifically, the annual cost of alcohol consumption is $165 per user, compared to just $20 per user for marijuana. This should not come as a surprise given the vast amount of research that shows alcohol poses far more – and more significant – health problems than marijuana.

    Alcohol use damages the brain. Marijuana use does not. Despite the myths we’ve heard throughout our lives about marijuana killing brain cells, it turns out that a growing number of studies seem to indicate that marijuana actually has neuroprotective properties. This means that it works to protect brain cells from harm. For example, one recent study found that teens who used marijuana as well as alcohol suffered significantly less damage to the white matter in their brains. Of course, what is beyond question is that alcohol damages brain cells.

    Alcohol use is linked to cancer. Marijuana use is not. Alcohol use is associated with a wide variety of cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver and prostate. Marijuana use has not been conclusively associated with any form of cancer. In fact, one study recently contradicted the long-time government claim that marijuana use is associated with head and neck cancers. It found that marijuana use actually reduced the likelihood of head and neck cancers. If you are concerned about marijuana being associated with lung cancer, you may be interested in the results of the largest case-controlled study ever conducted to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking and cigarette smoking. Released in 2006, the study, conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin at the University of California at Los Angeles, found that marijuana smoking was notassociated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Surprisingly, the researchers found that people who smoked marijuana actually had lower incidences of cancer compared to non-users of the drug.

    Alcohol is more addictive than marijuana. Addiction researchers have consistently reported that marijuana is far less addictive than alcohol based on a number of factors. In particular, alcohol use can result in significant and potentially fatal physical withdrawal, whereas marijuana has not been found to produce any symptoms of physical withdrawal. Those who use alcohol are also much more likely to develop dependence and build tolerance.

    Alcohol use increases the risk of injury to the consumer. Marijuana use does not. Many people who have consumed alcohol or know others who have consumed alcohol would not be surprised to hear that it greatly increases the risk of serious injury. Research published this year in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that 36 percent of hospitalized assaults and 21 percent of all injuries are attributable to alcohol use by the injured person. Meanwhile, theAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that lifetime use of marijuana is rarely associated with emergency room visits. According to the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, this is because: “Cannabis differs from alcohol … in one major respect. It does not seem to increase risk-taking behavior. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.” Interestingly enough, some research has even shown that marijuana use has been associated with a decreased risk of injury.

    Safer for the Community

    Alcohol use contributes to aggressive and violent behavior. Marijuana use does not. Studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol, unlike marijuana, contributes to the likelihood of aggessive and violent behavior. An article published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors reported that “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” whereas “cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.”

    Alcohol use is a major factor in violent crimes. Marijuana use is not.The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 25-30% of violent crimes in the United States are linked to the use of alcohol. According to a report from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, that translates to about 5,000,000 alcohol-related violent crimes per year. By contrast, the government does not even track violent acts specifically related to marijuana use, as the use of marijuana has not been associated with violence. (Of course, we should note that marijuana prohibition, by creating a widespread criminal market, is associated with acts of violence.)

  • Andrew swanteni

    The logic that Pence is using is very flawed. Do you really think it’ll cut down on the use of marijuana? All this will do is fill up more prison systems and incline dealers and growers to sell more… If a possession of a joint isn’t a crime, a cop won’t arrest you for having a joint. However, say a joint is a felony or so, the police must now arrest you for committing a crime. This law won’t do anything besides fill Pence’s pockets from private prisons and “Rehab programs”. The assumptions and accusations made by Pence and other’s is that “We have more kids in marijuana rehab treatment programs today more than we ever have”. This is true, however, what they don’t tell you, is how those numbers were added: When a person is caught in Indiana for the first time with marijuana, the court gives them a choice: A. Go to Jail and serve the sentence, or B. Go to “Rehab/Treatment”… Obviously I would choose rehab over jail any day. The statistics show that 97% of marijuana users in treatment were from court ordered sentences. The other 3% is “Voluntary”, and with that 3%, 2/3 is underage children sent by their over worried parents who buy Pence’s BS

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  • xarpen

    Pence is an idiot and so are his lap dogs. Keep filling up those prisons, assholes.

  • Whittier5

    Insane! At a time when the National effort is to “de-list” MJ, IN’s teawhackadoos march inexorably Backwards??

    When the rest of the Nation is waking up to the incredible expense AND FAILURE of policing MJ, IN marches inexorably Backwards??

    Pence is a terrible choice for Indiana – so are the General Assembly’s teawhackadoos.

  • Pingback: Indiana Governor to sign Bill Increasing Penalties for Marijuana | TripleSinner

  • Johnathan

    This is such bulls%#+. Mike pence is a fool. Why the hell do u want to lock someone up for having a joint. One reason. MONEY. Mike pence is greedy and looking out for himself and not what the people want. He is elected to serve us but he is only serving his bank account. You can not find one person that approves locking someone up in prision for smoking a joint however that’s what mike pence wants to do. We need to get him out of office and get private prisons out of Indiana.

  • Johnathan

    So right Robert. Just wish there was more I could do. Guess my option is to love to colorado.

  • kina

    I’m grateful that Indiana State lawmakers codify the ridiculous because it keeps property values down and having just sold my home in Denver CO where the new medical marijuana laws are increasing state and local state government coffers and increasing home values, I sold my house at an unbelievable price and can purchase another home in depressed housing priced Indiana and live larger. When will Indiana politicians start using their brains? Not soon enough. Thanks Indiana legislature for showing the rest of the US that you’re backwards, ignorant and self absorbed and that shooting yourself in your (coffers) feet is gratifying to you, your constituents, your families and your legacies. In the meantime, expand your prisons because as your own states DOC stated, “in 20 years you will have expanded the prison population by 70%.”

  • Jason Wade Prater

    It is beyond time for Indiana to decriminalize pot. The tax revenue created will be astronomical. I think all Hoosiers need to band together, get the proposal on the 2014 election ballot and take control of their state again. The simple fact is that pot is not a dangerous product. The foolish notion of it being a “gateway” drug is outdated and ignorant. Alcohol and nicotine are a billion times more dangerous to our health, but they are both legal. It makes NO sense whatsoever to keep this war on marijuana going.

    The increased tax dollars added to all the savings from the arrests, prosecutions, and housing of pot smokers will do so much to help the Indiana economy.

    Legalize and tax marijuana. The plant has countless uses not just to smoke. paper, clothing, rope, etc save a tree, grow pot.

  • Kenneth Rogers

    you can simply thank gov. pence. he’s the tit that embraces reefer madness here in indiana

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