Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
Marijuana decriminalization is the latest buzzword in the weed world. It’s a move that President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to impose nationwide.
The concept typically means the elimination of criminal penalties associated with the possession of marijuana. In most cases, decriminalization lets anyone caught in possession of up to an ounce (28 grams) of weed slide with a small fine, avoiding the criminal justice system.
However, in parts of the country, those that remain some of the most militant toward cannabis offenders, the definition of decriminalization seems to have changed. In one case, it is now being defined by one Indiana state representative as a way to prevent law enforcement from charging motorists with DUI (driving under the influence).
Indiana has had it tough when it comes to changing its cannabis laws. For years, lawmakers have proposed various bills intended to lessen the criminal penalties associated with low-level marijuana offences. But the Republican-dominated legislature seems bent on stopping anything pot-related from going the distance, including prosecutors tossing out pot cases.
Still, lawmakers keep returning to the drawing board in hopes of concocting some version of a marijuana bill that they believe can become law. The latest one, introduced by Republican State Representative Jim Lucas, is a weird “decriminalization” measure designed to increase the THC-blood intoxication limit to five nanograms per milliliter of blood while operating a vehicle rather than zero.
As it stands, anyone in Indiana suspected of driving under the influence of cannabis can be asked to take a blood test. Failing to adhere to an officer’s request can result in the immediate year-long suspension of a person’s driver’s licence and jail. But by agreeing to the test, motorists open themselves up for a DUI charge. It’s not like alcohol, where a motorist must pass a breathalyzer to escape the clutches of the law; a zero-tolerance policy can get people who are not impaired into trouble.
Because of how marijuana metabolizes in the body, a motorist could have smoked weed up to a month prior to a traffic stop and still test positive for marijuana. However, that doesn’t mean that he or she was intoxicated at the time. Nevertheless, if a blood test reveals any amount of cannabis in the system, motorists are going to be prosecuted for DUI in the same way as had they been driving drunk.
Lucas’s bill aims to change the zero-tolerance policy. The proposal “requires that the analysis of controlled substances in a person’s blood measure only the controlled substance and not the metabolites of the controlled substance.” It would give more people a chance at beating a flawed system.
Indiana police are none too happy with the proposal. They argue that “it actually inhibits our ability to take impaired drivers off the roads. Plain and simple.”
Many police forces are presumably peeved about the bill because it could make it more challenging for them to use a new roadside drug detection tool to bust cannabis users for drugged driving.