Pence questions proposal to decrease marijuana penalties
Posted: Mar 20, 2013 11:24 PM EDT
Updated: Mar 20, 2013 11:24 PM EDT
By Emily Longnecker


Governor Mike Pence says the safety and security of Hoosiers are his top priority. He’s questioning legislation that dramatically decreases penalties involving pot, even for entry-level drug offenses.

The governor says he’s interested in reducing prison populations. But he wants do that by reducing crime, not by decreasing penalties on some crimes.

When 20-year-Rylie Cannon turns 21 in six months, he’ll likely celebrate the milestone by smoking a joint. That’s because Cannon goes to school in Colorado, where marijuana has become legal.

“It’s basically like treating it the same way as alcohol,” explained Cannon.

The approach, says Cannon, is completely different to that of his home state here in Indiana. A proposal in the state Senate, though, could reduce the penalties for entry level drug crimes in the Hoosier state.

A new law would cut the penalty for dealing less than ten pounds of marijuana to a year in prison and up to a $ 5,000 fine. The punishment for possession of under ten pounds would be cut to up to 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Pence has questioned if that’s the right move.

“I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties,” he said. “I think this legislation, as it moves forward, should still seek to continue to send a way strong message to the people of Indiana and particularly to those who would come into our state to deal drugs, that we are tough and we’re going to stay tough on narcotics in this state.”

“The law causes criminals where no criminal activity is present,” said Bill Levin.

Levin has been a long time advocate for legalizing marijuana in Indiana and across the country, just like Colorado has done.

“Marijuana is a happy, healthy, wonderful plant and everybody should have the right to grow it, just as they grow dandelions,” said Levin.

For now, Levin said the proposed legislation is a step in the right direction.

“I think lower penalties for cannabis is a positive move and a better move for our state,” he said.

It’s still a far cry, though, from where Levin would have the law. He’d like to see marijuana legalized – period.

Cannon said he can’t see that happening.

“I don’t think its going to happen here anytime soon,” he said.

That’s why, if he smokes pot, Cannon said he’ll be doing it in Colorado, where he can without fear of penalty.