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Opening Arguments

Weed whacker

This is a pretty big deal, huh?

An influential Indiana lawmaker intends to sponsor a bill next session that would reduce penalties for people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana.

State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said his legislation would make possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana an infraction rather than a criminal misdemeanor. Ten grams is equivalent to about one-third of an ounce, roughly enough to make 20 to 30 marijuana cigarettes.


Steele, who chairs the Senate committee on corrections, criminal and civil matters, noted that many other states and college campuses already ticket offenders for possessing small amounts of pot instead of arresting them.

It's usually aging hippie Democrats who introduce such measures, which is enough to doom them in the General Assembly. But this is a Republican accurately described in the story as "influential." This could actually pass. As hard as it is to imagine, being charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana could become akin to getting a traffic ticket in Indiana.

Equally interesting is the fact that Steele plans to introduce the marijuana provision as part of an overall plan to revise the criminal code to bring back a "sense of proportionality." That's a lot more important than the marijuana change itself. Indiana legislators have been in tough-on-crime mode for a long time now, but they won't spend more on the prison space required for tougher sentencing. The whole system is headed for a crash.