ANDERSON — Possession of marijuana in any quantity will still lead to criminal charges being filed in the majority of Indiana counties.
Ryan Mears, the newly appointed prosecutor in Marion County, has announced that his office will no longer prosecute possession of marijuana cases involving less than one ounce.
Indiana state law says possession of marijuana in an amount less than 30 grams can be prosecuted as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by 180 days in jail and a possible $1,000 fine.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said it never crossed his mind not to charge people with possession of marijuana.
Cummings, a member of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney Council leadership team, said the organization is opposed to the actions taken by Mears.
“The primary reason,” he said. “We don’t make the laws; our primary job is to enforce the laws. We don’t pick and choose what we’re going to enforce and not going to enforce.”
Cummings said possession of marijuana in small amounts is far down on the list of priorities of the serious criminal justice issues in this county and in Marion County.
“You would have trouble finding anyone arrested on possession of marijuana on its own,” he said. “We have arrests and charges for marijuana possession that are in connection with other stuff.
“If someone is getting arrested for possession of marijuana, less than an ounce, there is a problem,” Cummings said. “Police making the arrest are doing so to take care of the problem.”
He said the policy of deciding which laws to enforce is inconsistent with the oath of office.
“His (Mears’) position is inconsistent with the rule of law,” Cummings said. “I take the position it should be taken to the legislature for a change in the law. Once the legislature creates the laws, we’re bound by our oath to enforce them.”
He would tell local law enforcement that the officers should enforce the law as they believe it should be enforced.
Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger also doesn’t agree with the position being taken in Marion County.
He said not prosecuting the possession of marijuana charges is sending a “bad message”.
“It’s telling law enforcement to disregard criminal activity,” Mellinger said. “The correct way is to go through the legislature to change the law.”
He said there is not one person being detained in the Madison County Jail on a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge.
“Instead of jailing people in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana, we’re citing them into court,” Mellinger said. “That has relieved the jail overcrowding problem in this county.”
Zach Osowski, spokesman for the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, said the organization has heard from multiple prosecutors around the state since the Mears announcement.
“We’ve heard from other county prosecutors that agree with the position of the Madison County prosecutor,” he said.