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Sanity must be a bit contagious. After big wins for marijuana in CO, WA, and MA, it is officially on the table in Purplest Indiana, supported by Democrats and even some leading Republicans.

2 Indiana lawmakers consider pot decriminalization

Indiana is a long way from considering legalizing recreational marijuana as Colorado and Washington did this week, but key lawmakers from both parties [emphasis mine] plan to introduce measures next year that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug.
How long until it can win? How long until we can even vote on it? Who else gets to go first?

But before any of that, where are we?

What do the people think? (They favor medical marijuana by a wide margin, and are about evenly split on legalization, with regulation and taxation. Support is increasing.)

What is the law in the states? (21 states permit marijuana to some degree.)

What is the DoJ position? (Self-contradictory. We won't waste resources on some kinds of case, but we will on others.)

What are the facts? (Wait, there are facts about marijuana, not just opinions? Yes. For a start, marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol. That was the basis for the winning campaign in Colorado.)

Before we dive into the weed (haha), a disclosure. My grandfather was a bootlegger with the New Jersey mob during Prohibition, and an honest businessman before and after, having worked his way up from immigrant poverty. I don't drink, and I am not interested in using pot. I like my mind, and do not feel the need to trade it in on some other model. I like both individual and group sanity in general, and work on it every day, worldwide, with One Laptop Per Child and its software and learning materials partner, Sugar Labs.

It is true that Indiana turfed out its moderate Republican Senator Richard Lugar in the primaries, but it is also true that his Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock lost here to Blue Dog Right-to-Life Democrat Joe Donnelly, even while the egregious Mike Pence was elected Governor. And we elected an award-winning teacher, Glenda Ritz, rather than a basketball coach and ideologue as Superintendent for Public Instruction. There is hope for Indiana as it continues the same generational and demographic shifts as the rest of the country.

There is even hope for marijuana in Indiana. There is no way we could get out in front on this, in comparison with, say California, where Bill Maher has just promised on his show, Real Time, to contribute a million dollars to legalization, but we can certainly follow along at some point.

Our heroes of the moment are

Democratic state Sen. Karen Tallian, with
Senate Bill 0347.

Marijuana offenses.

Provides that operating a vehicle with an inactive metabolite of marijuana, hashish, or hash oil in one's body does not violate the impaired driving laws.

Makes possession of less than three ounces of marijuana a Class C infraction.

Makes possession of more than three ounces of marijuana a Class B misdemeanor, and makes the offense a Class A misdemeanor if the person has two or more prior convictions involving marijuana in the past five years.

Requires a court to suspend a sentence imposed for possession of marijuana if the person does not have a previous conviction involving marijuana in the past five years, and requires a court to defer a sentence if the person pleads guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Makes the sale or delivery of more than three ounces of marijuana a Class A misdemeanor, and makes the offense a Class D or Class C felony under certain circumstances.

Provides a defense if a person who delivers under ten pounds of marijuana does so for no consideration.

Makes the public use or display of marijuana a Class B misdemeanor, and makes the offense a Class A misdemeanor if the person has two or more prior convictions for an offense involving marijuana in the past five years.

Reduces the penalty for maintaining a common nuisance to a Class A misdemeanor if the only unlawful controlled substances involved were marijuana, hashish, or hash oil.

Repeals the controlled substance excise tax.

Makes conforming amendments.

Republican state Sen. Brent Steele, chairman of the Senate committee on corrections, criminal and civil matters, who intends to introduce decriminalization legislation in 2013 that would make possession of 10 grams or less an infraction, rather than a criminal misdemeanor.

From the Indianapolis Business Journal:
GOP senator plans bill decriminalizing pot possession

Almost all of the comments are in favor of decriminalization. If we have business and the cities with us, we are well along, but that still leaves the churches in the countryside. Both of which are continuing to shrink as segments of the population.

Beth Baker, executive director of the Healthy Communities Initiative, said she came around to the idea of relaxing marijuana laws while working on preventing substance abuse by young people.

"From my own experience working in the prevention field, we can do a lot better job of prevention with marijuana if we had it legalized," Baker said. That way, she said, pot could be regulated and taxed like tobacco and alcohol.

Opponents continue to rely on fact-free, faith-based lies.

Marijuana in the 2012 Election

Where we won

Washington passed Initiative Measure No. 502 to license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession (limited to one ounce per person) for people over age 21; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.

Colorado Colorado Amendment 64 (2012) passed by initiative, legalizing recreational use.

Massachusetts passed an initiative to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the use of medical marijuana.

Where we didn't win this round

Arkansas has decreased marijuana penalties in recent years, but this year's medical marijuana amendment was narrowly defeated in a campaign of malicious lies, for which some proponents are suing the Family Council Action Committee and Jerry Cox for defamation, negligence and trademark violations related to a press conference they held.

Montana has very limited medical marijuana, after the legislature imposed stringent regulations on its previous program to keep it from being a business. An attempt to overturn that law failed this time.

Oregon has medical marijuana, but Proposition 80 to legalize and tax marijuana failed narrowly.

Marijuana in the States

Places that have decriminalized non-medical cannabis in the United States

Light green  State with legal medical cannabis.
Medium green   State with decriminalized cannabis possession laws.
Dark green   State with both medical and decriminalization laws.
Purple  State with legalized cannabis.

21 US states permit medical marijuana or have decriminalized or legalized marijuana. Other states have greatly reduced previous penalties in recent years.

Getting involved

The best starting point for learning about marijuana legalization is the Marijuana Policy Project, which tracks what is going on in all 50 states. Here are a few key points from its page on Indiana.

After the legislature passed a resolution calling for re-examination of the state’s marijuana laws, the Indiana Senate Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee heard from a number of experts on the need to relax Indiana’s draconian possession laws. Following up on those findings, Sen. Karen Tallian sponsored a bill to change the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 to a civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to $500. Unfortunately, elected officials haven’t gotten over their irrational fear of honest conversation about drug policy in election years, so the bill was tabled for the year. Still, kudos to Tallian for her efforts.

Indiana has some of the harshest marijuana penalties in the country. Possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine. You can learn more about Indiana’s marijuana penalties and enforcement by reading this report by Jon Gettman, PhD.

Marijuana in the News

Marijuana's hazy future

Broad Public Support For Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Marijuana proponents emboldened even after initiative's defeat

High anxiety on fed response to new pot laws

Mexico eyes legalization of marijuana in two U.S. states warily

Voters in Washington and Colorado legalize recreational marijuana

Election Day message: The nonsense of marijuana busts

Breaking: [WA] King, Peirce Counties Drop All Pending Marijuana Cases

Legalization Brings Higher Quality, Lower Cost Pot

That headline is grossly misleading. The important fact reported is that traffic fatalities decline. But this is Bloomberg. The only thing that matters to them is how the news affects your investments.

Introducing the Great Marijuana Prohibitionists of 2012

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