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Senators Up Marijuana Penalties To Appease The Governor

Teens are using drugs with less frequency, a new study says.

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.

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