Legislation is a funny thing: It takes a great deal of effort to get a bill through the General Assembly. Every “I” has to be dotted and “T” crossed, and there are usually a lot of “I’s” and “T’s” to be checked. If they’re not, someone will find a way to get around the law. When a bill is submitted, it is usually assigned to an appropriate committee. If it is voted to the floor, that chamber debates, hears some testimony, and votes. If it gets past that, it goes to the next chamber to repeat the process. Assuming no major changes are made, it goes to the Governor for a signature…or a veto. If the Governor signs it, it becomes law, usually on July 1st of the year it was passed. If the Governor vetoes it, backers start all over again the next year.

There is a bill awaiting Governor Pence’s thumbs up or thumbs down. This bill, now known as House Enrolled Act 1482 would allow, in certain cases, sentences lowered or expunged from an offender’s record. To summarize the Act, from the Engrossed version:

Synopsis: Expungement. Allows a court to enter judgment of conviction as a Class D felony with the express provision that the conviction will be converted to a conviction as a Class A misdemeanor if the defendant fulfills certain conditions. Requires a court to seal the arrest records of a person who was arrested but not prosecuted or whose conviction was overturned on appeal. Provides that a court shall expunge records concerning misdemeanor convictions and minor Class D felony convictions under certain circumstances, and that a court may expunge records concerning certain more serious felony convictions. Specifies that misdemeanor and minor Class D felony records ordered expunged by the court are removed or sealed, and that more serious felony records ordered expunged are marked as expunged but remain public records. Permits a law enforcement officer to have access to certain expunged records without a court order. Establishes a procedure to expunge records, and requires payment of the civil filing fee to petition to expunge a conviction. Provides that a person may file a petition to expunge more than one conviction, and provides that a person may only petition for expungement once in the person’s lifetime. Provides that a petition to expunge a conviction may be filed not earlier than: (1) five years from the date of conviction, in the case of a misdemeanor; (2) eight years from the date of conviction in the case of minor Class D felonies; (3) eight years from the date the sentence is completed in the case of more serious felonies; and (4) ten years from the date the sentence is completed in the case of the most serious felonies. Requires consent of the prosecutor to petition for expungement of the most serious felonies, and prohibits granting expungement in the case of sex and violent offenders and persons convicted of specified serious crimes. Provides that the civil rights of a person whose records are expunged are restored, and requires a person questioned about a previous conviction for employment or other certain other purposes be asked about the previous conviction in a form such as “Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court?” Specifies that an expunged conviction is not admissible in an action for negligent hiring, admission, or licensure. Repeals superseded provisions concerning expungement and restricted disclosure of records.

You may check this at: http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2013/EH/EH1482.2.html and read the entire House Enrolled Act at: http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2013/HE/HE1482.1.html

From the point of view of relegalization of Marijuana, this bill is an inch in the right direction. Not much of an improvement, but it might lessen the burden of life from those caught with Cannabis in their possession.

A “Baby step.” The Indiana legislature is sticking its toe in the water before jumping in. But they shouldn’t be so timid. They heard the truth when a number of Marijuana reformers testified before the Crime and Criminal Corrections Committee. They have been exposed to the information. Just in late April of 2013 the latest Howey Report poll showed 56% of Hoosiers want Marijuana reform, and the notion turned out to be more popular than Governor Pence’s tax cut!

In short, there is no reason to be cautious. We can prove two ways to tomorrow that Marijuana is, as Drug Enforcement Administration, Administrative Law Judge Francis Young said in 1988 that Marijuana is “…Safer than many of the foods we commonly consume.”

It’s time for the Indiana government to come into the 21st Century when it comes to Marijuana. The people are already there, waiting for them.  The bill awaits Governor Pence’s signature. If he signs, it will become law on July 1st, 2013.