By Hannah Troyer
A bill approved unanimously Tuesday by a Senate committee could make it legal for individuals to possess the paper used to roll marijuana joints because that type of drug paraphernalia has some legal uses.
The bill would also reduce the penalties for possession of other drug paraphernalia.
Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, authored the legislation after he realized sentencing changes approved last year left out a statute regarding drug paraphernalia.
Because of the oversight, prosecutors had started to charge individuals with possession of rolling papers instead of possession of marijuana because the former had become a higher-level charge – an A misdemeanor.
That “seemed disjointed to me. It wasn’t proportional,” Bray said. “I originally filed the bill to get that changed.”
If approved, the bill would make intentional possession of drug paraphernalia a Class C misdemeanor. The charge is currently a Class A misdemeanor. Rolling papers – which can also be used for cigarettes – would not be considered paraphernalia.
In addition, if the person has a prior offense – unrelated to possession of paraphernalia – the penalty is reduced to a Class A misdemeanor. It is currently a Level 6 felony.
Bray also added an amendment to the bill that extends a law dealing with syringes to all drugs. Indiana’s current law states that possession of a syringe with intent to use it for drugs is a Level 6 felony, but it does not mention narcotic drugs – including heroin or meth.
If the bill passes into law, it will apply to all drugs.
“I don’t hold out hope that this will fix the heroin issue,” he said. “But it will be an extra tool for prosecutors and it will give people a felony conviction.
“It gives the prosecutor (a greater) ability to work with (offenders) because you can put them in jail for a little longer or give them more substantial services – even get people to kick the habit,” he said.
The bill – approved 9-0 by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee – now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Hannah Troyer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.