The Marion County Prosecutor's Office announced Monday that it will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases.
“Too often, an arrest for marijuana possession puts individuals into the system who otherwise would not be. That is not a win for our community,” Prosecutor Ryan Mears said. “The enforcement of
marijuana policy has disproportionately impacted people of color, and this is a first step to addressing that.”
Marion County Acting Prosecutor Ryan Mears
That means when someone is picked up for having an ounce or less of marijuana, they won't be prosecuted.
"Our priority is violent crime." Mears said. "We are not going to mess around with these small possession of marijuana cases."
According to Indiana state law, possession of marijuana in an amount less than 30 grams can be prosecuted as a Level B Misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.
The prosecutor clarified what will happen if police do make an arrest.
"It's not being sold. It's not being smoked. We are not going to be filing those cases," Mears said.
According to the former chief deputy prosecutor, minor marijuana possession cases are clogging courts, over crowding jails, and taxing resources that could be better spent fighting violent criminals.
While I am philosophically against laws being on the book that are not going to be enforced, Indiana prosecutors certainly have the discretion to prioritize the enforcement of laws. Prosecuting individuals for small quantity pot possession definitely uses up resources that are better spent combating more serious crime, particularly that of a violent nature. And, as Mears notes, there is no link between using pot and more serious crime.
On balance, I side with Mears and am greatly encouraged we finally have someone who will lead the Marion County Prosecutor's Office in a newer and better direction, assuming, of course, Mears is the one ultimately selected as the replacement to the elected prosecutor, Terry Curry. Unfortunately, Curry showed a shocking hostility to civil liberties, particularly in the area of civil forfeiture which he expanded greatly under his watch. If Mears wants another worthwhile cause, he should investigate the use of civil forfeiture by his office and take steps to curb the abuses if not outright end the practice.
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