Indiana Sen. Karen Tallian has filed a bill that seeks to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.

Police in the state made 22,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2018, making it the second most common offense. Tallian revealed that the number of arrests increased last year and said that is why she keeps filing decriminalization bills.

SB 114 would reduce the penalty for possession to an infraction for a first offense. A second offense would result in a Class C misdemeanour.

“We are well behind the times in the state of Indiana when it comes to cannabis,” said Tallian, who is the Senate Democratic Chairwoman. She urged her legislative colleagues to follow the examples providing by neighbouring states like Illinois and Michigan, which both recently legalized recreational cannabis sales.

Indiana is among a shrinking minority of states in which marijuana is illegal for medical and recreational purposes. Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina are the only other states in which marijuana is fully illegal and possession is treated as a criminal offense.

Another Indiana Senator, Greg Taylor, said the state’s laws are unjust, ineffective, and out-dated. He has filed a separate bill, SB 86, which would provide anyone in possession of a valid medical marijuana card from another state with a defense from prosecution within Indiana.

Both Tallian and Taylor are Democrats, while Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas has also filed a decriminalization bill. Lucas’ bill also sets out the framework for a legal medical marijuana industry in the state.

Gov. Holcomb has previously said he believes Indiana should wait for the federal government to legalize marijuana.

Neighbouring Ohio has a thriving medical marijuana industry – 74,768 registered patients have registered with the program since it began a year ago – but this week Gov. Mike DeWine ruled out legalizing recreational cannabis.

He believes it would be a mistake to permit sales, arguing that marijuana has grown increasingly potent in recent years and that it poses a risk to youngsters in Ohio. Cannabis advocates accused him of swimming upstream against the current of popular will and common sense and defying the wishes of the majority of his constituents.

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