INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears and his challenger in the Nov. 8 election, Republican Cyndi Carrasco, are weighing in on President Joe Biden pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.
“I think it’s a great move,” the Democrat prosecutor said Friday. “We meet a lot of people in the community who are being held back by the fact that they do have these prior marijuana convictions. I don’t think people realize some of the collateral consequences to these types of offenses.”
Mears said a marijuana possession charge can affect someone’s ability to get housing, financial aid for education, or employment.
Carrasco issued a statement to News 8. In part, it said, “If President Biden was serious about updating federal marijuana laws, he should call on congress to modernize any marijuana laws that burden the criminal justice system. It is up to congress and state legislatures to make any further changes they see fit. I look forward to these conversations.”
Mears said, “This is something that’s basically looking backward and looking back at individuals who had previously been convicted of marijuana.”
Indiana is one of the seven remaining states that has not legalized the use of medical or recreational marijuana. Indiana permits the use of CBD oil. The U.S. Virgin Islands along with 13 other states have decriminalized the use of marijuana.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office does not prosecute simple possession charges involving less than 30 grams. Mears said his office will prosecute public consumption and driving while under the influence.
“We don’t prosecute that simple possession of marijuana because we are focused on violent crime,” he said. “We don’t want to devote our resources to prosecuting a joint. We don’t think that makes our community safer.”
Carrasco addressed that in her statement: “As I have said from day one, I am not running for Marion County Prosecutor to focus on small possession of marijuana. Under my leadership, the prosecutor’s office will use a commonsense approach on a case-by-case basis.”
In his announcement, the President noted there is a racial disparity when it comes to who is charged and prosecuted for simple possession.
Mears said, “In particular when you look at the racial disparities that exist between who’s ultimately prosecuted for possession of marijuana and you compare that to marijuana usage rates across all races, there’s a very clear disparity there and when we see those types of disparities in our criminal justice system it’s important that the criminal justice system acts.”