Friday, August 26, 2022 6:02 pm
Marijuana won’t be on the ballot this year, but it does appear on the local campaign trail.
While lawmakers continue to resist any idea of legalizing cannabis products, the state is now one of only 13 states that do not have an effective medical cannabis law and only one of 19 states that still impose a prison sentence for mere possession of cannabis, according to DISA, a group that specializes in issues of Occupational health.
Each week, several people in Kosciusko County are accused of possessing cannabis products, a group of products that includes typical marijuana, THC cartridges and other forms such as wax, oils and foodstuffs. The bond required to get out of prison is often $700 in cash.
Most often, the charge of possession is accompanied by other charges.
While many polls show that the vast majority of Americans support some level of legalization, state lawmakers have shown no movement on the issue.
In Kosciusko County, perhaps for the first time in election history, more than one candidate is raising cannabis-related issues.
On a recent first Friday, a man in a superhero costume named Captain Cannabis walked around with a group of supporters. He is associated with the Indiana Libertarian Party and is a leader with the Indiana NORML, a decades-old group officially known as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
At the same outing, the Libertarian county party, which often takes part on First Fridays, displayed a large flag at its booth calling for the legalization of cannabis.
But more realistically, Travis McConnell, the Democratic candidate running for attorney general in Kosciusko County, is highlighting the issue by saying that resources in the office should focus more on prosecuting sexual crimes involving minors rather than possession of marijuana.
He vows not to prosecute cases involving possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and is referring to Marion County District Attorney Ryan Mears, who announced two years ago that his office would no longer prosecute minor marijuana possession cases.
McConnell faces Republican Brad Falls in the open race for the district attorney’s office. Voelz serves as the Deputy Chief Prosecutor for the Kosciuszko District.
McConnell said he decided to run after hearing about not prosecuting alleged sex offenders.
He said that all prosecutors face choices in terms of resources and that the discretion of the prosecution is part of that.
He said he knew of a man who had been in prison for over six months for possession. He said he’s also seen arrests based solely on tool possession.
“If we were to pick and choose, I would stand up against pedophiles and violent crime, and I’m less concerned about people going to jail for marijuana,” McConnell said.
McConnell cited a survey that showed 71% of Hoosiers say they support some level of decriminalization.
He said he believed his approach could appeal to libertarians, Democrats, and some Republicans.
McConnell said he would like to see marijuana legal in Indiana.
In an email, Foyles answered some of the questions that were sent to him about it.
Foyles argues that he is bound by the oath to “enforce all laws passed by the legislature.”
“The obligation is absolutely not to take a red pen to the law book and simply cross out any law he doesn’t like,” he said in the email.
Voelz said he did not think it would be appropriate to discuss sexual crimes in a story about marijuana. He also refused to present his thoughts on marijuana reform or to limit the number of cases of marijuana possession his office sees per year.
But Foles has already explained the definition of the attorney general’s discretion.
The prosecutor’s discretion does not mean picking and choosing which laws, because of his personal opinions, should not be charged, he said.
And that is why I believe – and it is a belief I have held in my 30 years of criminal justice practice – that it is a violation of the separation of powers – and thus a violation of the Attorney General’s oath to uphold the Constitution – to make a comprehensive statement of the existence of any crime or class of crime that the Attorney General would refuse This decision – constitutionally – can only be made by elected legislators rather than by individual prosecutors imposing their own opinions.”
Libertarian William Henry, a candidate for Indiana’s second congressional district, is a member of the Indiana NORML Board of Directors. Henry said he became an advocate of marijuana legalization through his work with veterans.
Henry said, unlike other neighboring states, Indiana continues to ignore potential tax revenue while continuing to make life difficult for those found in possession.
He considers cannabis products a “safe, viable, and effective drug” and said he believes legalization in Indiana is inevitable.
“I don’t know why it is taking so long for the state to start working because they are missing out on so many opportunities,” Henry said.
It also supports the removal of previous marijuana convictions.
Henry said he believes cannabis could be a factor in the District Two race, where he faces Republican Rudy Yakim and Democrat Paul Storey.
“There are a few densely populated counties along the Michigan border and many of these people use cannabis and want to get cannabis legally,” Henry said.
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