- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2019

The largest county in Indiana announced Monday it will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases.

Ryan Mears, the acting prosecutor of Marion County, which contains Indianapolis, said the end of prosecution against possession is “effective today.”

“If it is less than one ounce of marijuana, we are not going to file that charge,” Mr. Mears said, the Indianapolis Star reported.

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He stressed that his office was not condoning drug use, but that the office believes focusing on marijuana does nothing to solve Indianapolis’ “terrible violence issues.” 

“Let’s get those officers involved in trying to track down the people who are involved in non-fatal shootings and homicides, as opposed to worrying about basic possession of marijuana cases,” Mr. Mears said, adding that “public consumption” could still lead to an arrest.

“I don’t want people to get the idea that if you walk down to the monument, people are free to light up in public,” he said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about making sure that we treat everybody fairly,”

Mr. Mears said he believes these policies “disproportionately impacts people of color” and overwhelm their prison systems.

“It clogs up the court calendars, and it disrupts people’s lives,” he said. “When you get arrested and you get charged, and you have to come downtown, that’s a stressful situation for anyone. It makes people miss work. They have to pay fees, or pay for an attorney. If we’re going to end up dismissing 81 or 82% of the cases, it does not make sense to file a case.”

Mr. Mears said he didn’t consult the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and that it would be up to their department whether they want to arrest people smoking in public.

“But the decision to file charges or not is something that’s up to the discretion of the Marion County prosecutor’s office. And we don’t believe that’s good public policy,” he said.

“This is not a political decision. This is a moral decision,” he added. “I have a moral responsibility to make sure everybody is treated fairly under the law. And the continuing enforcement of marijuana laws is unjust and unfair to people of color. So I’m not going to do it.”

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