The Pot Legislator

Why Indiana Senator Karen Tallian fights for marijuana



Indiana Senator Karen Tallian, D-Portage, is known for many things.

As an attorney she has done everything from defending the accused to teaching at the Valparaiso School of Law. She maintains her practice in Portage, has experience in state and federal courts and is licensed to practice law in Indiana and Illinois.

As a legislator she has taken on labor issues, healthcare, property tax reform and environmental protection.

However, she is probably most noted for her continued campaign to decriminalize marijuana in Indiana.

I had the chance to talk with Tallian about why she stands behind this issue with no intention of backing down.

NUVO: How many times have you tried to get some sort of marijuana legislation passed and why?

SEN. KAREN TALLIAN: Well, I’ve proposed various forms [of legislation] over the last five years. It started recently. I am an attorney and I was sitting in a criminal court waiting to be called and I saw one after another after another… young kids pleading guilty to either a misdemeanor or D felony for possession of marijuana and getting sentenced to community corrections, payment of fines, going through alcohol and substance abuse programs and I thought this is really… this is really stupid. So the first year I filed a bill that just said, “Let’s talk about marijuana policy in the state of Indiana. Let’s hold some hearings” and lo and behold! Nobody was more surprised than me when that actually passed the Senate, because I said, “You know, it’s just a hearing, it’s just a study.” So even the most stalwart people let me do that. We had a couple of hearings over a summer. The next couple of years I tried, I filed a bill for the decriminalization of small amounts so [the] possession of small amounts would only be an infraction. But I could never get a hearing. I think I did that for three years and everybody kept saying, “Oh, next year, next year.” Then this year, a few people said, “Hey, why don’t you just try medical?” So this year I filed a bill just for medical. Again, I got HUGE public support. I think that when we put the announcement up on my Senate website, we got 90,000 hits in the first week. And so that’s where I am. I didn’t get a hearing on that either.

(Editor’s note: The announcement was shared more than 1,900 times from the NUVO website.)

NUVO: As an attorney, do you see the legal community getting more and more relaxed about marijuana? I mean, there are bigger fish to fry, like murderers, rapists, child abductors, etc. compared to pot violations.

TALLIAN: I sure hope so. In the legal community, I think most people (most people that I know and that’s a lot of people from all over the state) think that we are well past time. Now I will tell you that quietly over the last couple of years we have managed to lower some penalties so we did get the second offense taken out of felony and into misdemeanor. That had been an automatic bump up if you had a second offense. So we got rid of that. We’ve reduced some penalties. We’ve gotten rid of some paraphernalia issuse. So, quietly I’ve gotten a few things done because people agree with this. But going for the big one of either decriminalization or medical or legal, we just haven’t gotten there yet.

NUVO: How does the recently passed bill allowing access to experimental drugs, medical devices and treatments (HEA 1065) affect drugs and medicines with a cannabis base? Will Hoosiers have access to those products under the statute?


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