The wild state of marijuana law enforcement in Indiana

| Nov 7, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

Many states that have previously taken a hardline approach toward the possession and use of marijuana find themselves in a complicated legal position now that the federal Farm Act has legalized industrial hemp products.

Both marijuana and industrial hemp are chemically similar — so much so that neither roadside drug tests nor K-9 “drug dogs” can tell them apart. This is problematic given the widespread popularity of hemp products everywhere.

As problematic as the issue may be for law enforcement, it could be worse for ordinary citizens. Indiana still considers marijuana possession to be illegal, so someone could potentially be arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession and then — unless they are given bail and able to pay it — sit in jail until the substance in their possession is formally tested. An innocent person could spend weeks or months in jail waiting on such tests.

Also, local police jurisdictions inside Indiana itself are at odds on the issue. For example, prosecutors in Marion County will no longer prosecute marijuana possession when the person involved is holding onto less than an ounce. Meanwhile, a driver in Hamilton County could be caught with a single joint and arrested. That person would be forced to go through the harrowing process of being booked, entering a plea and mounting a defense — all the while racking up a ton of legal bills.

The issue is likely to get worse. Governor Eric Holcomb has stated that he continues to aggressively oppose marijuana legalization or tolerance — while the surrounding states are rapidly moving toward full legalization of the drug.

What can the average citizen do? First, be very conscious of the risk you may be taking when you’re in possession of marijuana in Indiana, regardless of the amount or reason. Second, if you’re arrested for marijuana possession, immediately invoke your right to remain silent and ask to speak to your attorney.