Friday, December 7, 2012

Is Indiana going to pot?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2012 at 4:20 PM

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Full disclosure: Back in my younger days I actually tried marijuana.

I was in my Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alex Haley phase and was going to write the next great American novel. I figured marijuana would loosen me up a bit and help with my creativity.

To be honest, it really didn't do all that much for me. In fact all it did was dull my cynical nature. Alcohol made me much fun to be around so instead of Mary Jane as my drug of choice, I stuck with the legal drugs, uh, products of Jim Bean, Johnnie Walker and Jack Daniels. And you can see how well they have served me over the past 20 years.

Indiana is the middle of a discussion about what exactly to do with marijuana.

Indiana State Police Commissioner Paul Whitesell offered a "philosophical" opinion that he thinks marijuana should be legalized and taxed. State Sens. Brent Steele and Karen Talian have both talked about reforming the state's marijuana laws. And although a lot of them won't say it publicly, there are a lot of county prosecutors in this state who would rather spend their time putting murders and child molesters behind bars than prosecuting someone who was caught with a couple joints.

Fundamentally, I've never understood why marijuana was illegal in the first place. To me, there's no logic in making something illegal that you can grow in the ground and all you need are seeds, dirt, water and sun.

Cocaine, heroin, crack, I get it. But pot? Absent the very bad film "Refer Madness," I've never seen anyone smoke a joint and go on a wild rampage and kill dozens of people. If anything, they just sat there and looked silly. And we are not going down the road of medicinal marijuana; this is straight up about recreational use. I argue a marijuana joint is no more dangerous than a cocktail. It just takes longer to finish.

And let me spare you right now and say that I do not want to turn Indianapolis, South Bend, Richmond or New Albany into Amsterdam. However, even in Amsterdam there are rules on public consumption of legal narcotics.

What I am saying is that from a public policy perspective, would it really kill anyone in this state to have the actual discussion about where the best use of our limited resources and tax dollars should be spent? Is up to a year in jail for someone possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana really a smart public policy move?

If I had a magic wand, I'd legalize pot and tax the you-know-what out of it while treating it with the same rules and regulations that apply to alcohol. However, I think Hoosier lawmakers are more likely to go the decriminalization route. Get caught with possession as a first offense and you get a ticket. Do it again and harsher penalties will likely follow. I think we are actually off to a good start in the fact that we can start having this discussion. Where it goes, I'm not sure, but I do know that when it's all over, I have a date with Jack Daniels. Mary Jane and I haven't seen each other in a couple decades and I have no plans to go back.

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