Indiana Weighs Marijuana Legalization

Committee Studies State's Marijuana Laws

Experts told Indiana lawmakers Thursday that the prohibition against marijuana use in the United States has failed.

The Legislature's Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee heard testimony Thursday as it began studying whether to legalize marijuana or reduce criminal penalties on small amounts of the drug.

Noah Mamber, of the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana use is widespread despite its illegality and that laws against possession ruin people's lives.

"States that have enacted medical marijuana laws or that have decriminalized minor marijuana offenses have not experienced increases in crime, increases in drug use, increased access to drugs, including marijuana, by adolescents, or other negative consequences," said Daniel Abrahamson, of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Abrahamson estimates Indiana could raise $44 million a year in sales tax alone if it regulated and taxed marijuana.

Mamber suggested marijuana should be regulated by the state, much like alcohol.

Democratic State Sen. Karen Tallian, of Ogden Dunes, successfully pushed lawmakers to study the issue. She said the state has "draconian" marijuana laws.

Lawmakers have approved medical marijuana in 16 states and the District of Columbia. They have eliminated penalties on small amounts of marijuana in 13 other states.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he would like to wait and see what the panel finds before taking a position.

Indiana lawmakers this year banned the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana, also called spice.