Thursday, January 1, 2015

Why We Should Legalize Marijuana in 2015

I live in Indiana so I'm going to focus on that state. This could apply to any state in the nation though, so just replace the word "Indiana" with your own state.



So why should Indiana legalize cannabis? What is the use of it? We'll compare Colorado's legalization with Indiana's non-legal status. First let's look at the current Indiana law dealing with marijuana. The text of these laws can be found at the following link. I'll be condensing it down as much as possible without taking away the meaning.

IC 35-48-4 Chapter 4. Offenses Relating to Controlled Substances

Currently under (IC = Indiana Code) IC 35-48-4-8.5 Version b, Dealing in paraphernalia effective 7-1-2014, Any person who keeps for sale, offers for sale, delivers, or finances the delivery of a raw material, an instrument, a device, or other object that is intended to be or that is designed or marketed to be used primarily for ingesting, inhaling marijuana, or otherwise introducing into the human body marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, a synthetic drug, or a controlled substance, or testing the strength, effectiveness, or purity of, or enhancing the effect of marijuana, or manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, or preparing marijuana, or diluting or adulterating marijuana commits a Class A infraction for dealing in paraphernalia. However, the offense is a Level 6 felony if the person has a prior unrelated judgment or conviction under this section.

Take note that this does not apply to: (2) Items marketed for or historically and customarily used in connection with the planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, or inhaling of tobacco or any other lawful substance.

Current law IC 35-48-4-10 Version b, Dealing in marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug effective 7-1-2014. Any person who knowingly or intentionally, manufactures, finances the manufacture of, delivers or finances the delivery of marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug, pure or adulterated, or possesses with intent to manufacture, finance the manufacture of, deliver, or finance the delivery of marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug, pure or adulterated commits dealing in marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug, a Class A misdemeanor. The offense is a Level 6 felony if the person has a prior conviction for a drug offense and the amount of the drug involved is less than thirty (30) grams of marijuana, or less than two (2) grams of hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug, or the amount of the drug involved is at least thirty (30) grams but less than ten (10) pounds of marijuana, or at least two (2) grams but less than three hundred (300) grams of hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug. The offense is a Level 5 felony if the person has a prior conviction for a drug dealing offense and the amount of the drug involved is at least thirty (30) grams but less than ten (10) pounds of marijuana, or at least two (2) grams but less than three hundred (300) grams of hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug, or
the amount of the drug involved is at least ten (10) pounds of marijuana, or at least three hundred (300) grams of hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug, or offense involved a sale to a minor.

Current law IC 35-48-4-11 Version b, Possession of marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug effective 7-1-2014. Any person who knowingly or intentionally possesses (pure or adulterated) marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug knowingly or intentionally grows or cultivates marijuana, or knowing that marijuana is growing on the person's premises, fails to destroy the marijuana plants, commits possession of marijuana, hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug, a Class B misdemeanor. The offense described in subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor if the person has a prior conviction for a drug offense. The offense described in subsection (a) is a Level 6 felony if the person has a prior conviction for a drug offense and the person possesses at least thirty (30) grams of marijuana, or at least two (2) grams of hash oil, hashish, salvia, or a synthetic drug.



Lets look at the penalties involved with these laws.

Class A infractionSec. 4. (a) A judgment of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) may be entered for a violation constituting a Class A infraction.

Class A misdemeanorIC 35-50-3-2 Class A misdemeanor
Sec. 2. A person who commits a Class A misdemeanor shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of not more than one (1) year; in addition, he may be fined not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000).
As added by Acts 1976, P.L.148, SEC.8. Amended by Acts 1977, P.L.340, SEC.124.

Level 5 felony IC 35-50-2-6 Version b Class C felony; Level 5 felony 
(c) A person who commits a Level 5 felony (for a crime committed after June 30, 2014) shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of between one (1) and six (6) years, with the advisory sentence being two (2) years. In addition, the person may be fined not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Level 6 felony = IC 35-50-2-7 Version c Class D felony; Level 6 felony
(b) A person who commits a Level 6 felony (for a crime committed after June 30, 2014) shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of between six (6) months and two and one-half (2 1/2) years, with the advisory sentence being one (1) year. In addition, the person may be fined not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000).



Okay there you have it. All this law and penalties for possession, distribution, manufacturing and use of a substance that if you went to Colorado the police would turn there heads as you've not broken the law. The way I understand the Indiana law, if I even took pencil and paper and drew a picture of a devise I might build for using marijuana it would be against the law. If there was 50 acres of wild marijuana growing on my property, and I knew about it, and did not destroy it I could be charged. It would cost a lot of money to destroy that much marijuana growing. Perhaps if something like that did happen I should weigh the costs of destroying verses being convicted.



According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, 12,850 people were arrested on marijuana possession charges in Indiana in 2010. (2010 is the latest figures I could find so far) That's 35 people hauled into the Indiana Court system every single day for something that would otherwise be legal in Colorado. All that costs the tax payers of Indiana a lot of money. Money that could be used for things like schools. It makes a drain on critical police resources that could be otherwise be used to fight the epidemic murder rate in places like Indianapolis. I can't turn on the evening news without a report of another murder almost every single day. Wouldn't our police and court system better serve the citizens by working on bringing violent offenders to justice rather than arresting peaceful pot smokers? Couldn't the vast amount of tax dollars our good citizens pay every year in taxes be better used to fight property crimes and real damage from real criminal activity? It is a huge waste of tax payer resources arresting, running them through the court system and housing in prisons persons involved with marijuana.

"Full on legalization would be like giving up the fight, said Sheriff Eric Williams. But he said putting people in jail automatically for every minor drug offense is not the answer either."

I think this line of thought is incorrect. Full on legalization would be more like admitting the total failure of a policy born from deceit and prejudice. I see nothing wrong with turning around and going the other way when one realizes they were incorrect. In my mind that stands out as honorable.

There is a better way to do things in Indiana. Indiana should just admit the failure of the current mind set concerning marijuana. Every person of reason would applaud the legislature for abandoning the short sighted, 20th century vendetta against this product. A vendetta that has cost our nation hundreds of billions of dollars in wasted resources and lost revenue.

Let's look at Colorado and see what benefits have been obtained by the citizens of that state by their legalization of marijuana for adult consumption. This data is from the Marijuana policy Project. All data and references can be found here.

Economic Impacts of Colorado’s State-Legal Marijuana Industry


Marijuana Policy Project
P.O. Box 77492
Washington DC 20013
(202)462-5747
Info@mpp.org
www.mpp.org

Marijuana has been legal in Colorado for adults 21 and older to use, possess, and cultivate since voters approved Amendment 64 in November 2012. This policy change has already significantly reduced the law enforcement resources required to enforce marijuana laws. Between 2012 and 2013, in Colorado, the number of marijuana cases filed in state courts plummeted 77%. The number of petty marijuana possession charges fell 81%.

However, the most dramatic effects of Amendment 64 did not appear until January 1, 2014, when the first legal, licensed, recreational marijuana stores opened their doors. On the first day alone, with only two-dozen stores open, the industry reported profits of more than $1 million. Within the first week, those profits had risen to nearly $5 million. The first three months of adult marijuana sales netted Colorado approximately $7.3 million in taxes with tax revenues increasing monthly.

Monthly revenues have been far lower than what were expected with new stores ramping up. A total of 197 stores have been granted state licenses, but several of them are not able to open yet because they are awaiting local approval, or because they do not have a sufficient supply of marijuana. Several stores that are open reported rationing marijuana to meet demand. Despite this, the total state tax revenue from medical and retail marijuana sales in FY 2014 is projected to total about $100 million.

The legislation to tax and regulate marijuana being debated in the Rhode Island Legislature has a different tax structure than the measure passed in Colorado. The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act proposes excise taxes of $50 per ounce on marijuana flowers and $10 per ounce on stems and leaves sold at the wholesale level. In Colorado, that tax is 15% per ounce. The static excise tax allows for more predictable revenue because it is not dependent on price. For example, an ounce in Colorado is currently sold for anywhere between $280-5608 and continues to fluctuate as the market adjusts to the demand.

In addition to tax revenue, the regulated marijuana industry in Colorado is boosting the local economy by creating jobs, both directly related to the industry and in ancillary sectors. As of May 1, 2014, the Marijuana Enforcement Division had issued 9,641 employee badges, which are required for everyone directly handling marijuana. These positions include retail assistants at dispensaries and trimmers and growers at cultivation facilities. New marijuana businesses also require lawyers, accountants, construction workers, electricians, landlords, security, insurance, transportation, and growing equipment suppliers.


On the first day of sales in Colorado, about half of the customers waiting in lengthy, orderly lines came from out-of-state. An online travel site noted that tourism to Denver is up about 10 percent
since January 1. Increased tourism and the newly legal status of marijuana certainly are not hurting real estate, either. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently ranked Denver one of the top commercial real estate markets nationwide. In fact, more families are moving to the Denver metro area, leading to a record-breaking number of single-family homes sold in 2013 (more than during the housing boom). Even former opponents of legalization, such as the Denver Chamber of Commerce, have conceded that the legal marijuana industry has been an economic boon.

Finally, a recent study by the University of Colorado – Denver, which had hypothesized that dispensaries would change the neighborhoods surrounding them for the worse and create more crime, actually found that medical marijuana dispensaries impacted neighborhoods no more than coffee shops. An older study from California found that crime actually decreases around medical marijuana centers, in part due to the increased security camera surveillance, as well as security guards at some shops. In fact, overall property crime rates for the four months since marijuana businesses began selling to adults 21 and over in Denver were down 11.4% from where they were during the same period last year; violent crime rates are down 5.6%.

In conclusion, the legal marijuana market has already had a positive impact on Colorado by reducing the number of marijuana-related arrests, generating tens of millions in tax revenue in the first year alone, and boosting direct and collateral economic sectors.


Indiana could use some of that kind of economic growth. I see houses all over the place in Indiana that have been sitting around unsold for years. Prime example is Gary Indiana. That place has turned into a crime infested, crumbling place of abandonment ever since the steel industry went belly up. There are no jobs there. Why not legalize marijuana and turn it into a tourist mecca? Look at all the jobs that would create. Instead of urban flight, there would be urban renewal.

I think Colorado has taught our nation an important lesson. That being that there is no good to come from marijuana criminalization. That there are many benefits from the legalization and taxation of cannabis. One of the benefits would be that people would quit looking at Indiana as some kind of backwards, corn fed Hicksville. You should know that is the impression a lot of people nation wide have of our state. People Say that marijuana will be legalized in Indiana one day, but we will be the last state to do it. Now that is just messed up. That sounds like stubborn hard-headedness that doesn't have to be.

Let 2015 be the year Indiana turns this around so all or our citizens can reap the rewards of a progressive policy concerning marijuana. Let Indiana not be the backwater state who comes in last in the realization of these bountiful harvests. Get on board with this. Write your legislature, and tell them you want marijuana legal in the state of Indiana and nation wide.