Mayor, IMPD chief respond to new marijuana policy

Indianapolis mayor, police chief respond change of marijuana prosecution policy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Mayor Joe Hogsett and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach went on camera for the first time Tuesday after acting Marion County prosecutor Ryan Mears announced that his office will no longer prosecute adults on marijuana possession cases of less than one ounce when that charge is the only or the most serious charge.

Both Chief Roach and Mayor Hogsett say they still need some time to process how this new policy is going to affect public safety, specifically violent crime, before they can fully jump on board.

Mears said it has been an “ongoing” conversation between his office, IMPD, and the mayor’s office to change marijuana possession policy. However, both Mayor Hogsett and Chief Roach say they have not previously discussed anything pertaining to the decriminalization of marijuana, but rather have had general conversations regarding public safety.

“From our standpoint, our priority is clear. We are going to address violent crime. That is our concern. That is our priority and we are not going to mess around with simple possession of marijuana cases,” says Mears.

As of now, Chief Roach says that his officers will continue making arrests to enforce Indiana law, which still states that marijuana is an illegal substance.

“If you are in possession of misdemeanor marijuana, then it is still against the law and you may still be arrested,” says Chief Roach.

The disconnect between IMPD, the mayor’s office, and the prosecutor’s office on the issue has caused some confusion for residents.

“Just as a taxpayer, I don’t feel like it is fiscally responsible to arrest people who aren’t going to be convicted of a crime. So I just don’t really agree with it,” said resident Natasha Ferguson, who was downtown Tuesday afternoon.

Mears says one of the reasons behind the change in policy was to hopefully free up resources to better address violent crime. However, Chief Roach says when officer’s confiscate any amount of marijuana, they will continue to go through the proper protocol that state law requires.

“Once you are arrested for anything, you go to the detention (center) and then there is a presentation of probable cause, and then it is at that point where the prosecutor’s office decides not to file those charges,” Chief Roach said.

“The only entity that can charge anyone with a crime is the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. And there is no ambiguity in this policy. We are not charging people if it is less than 30 grams of marijuana,” says Mears.

Hogsett says he still has a lot of questions in regards to the new policy.

“I want to be very, very supportive of anything that our community needs to do to make our criminal justice process equitable and fairer. But, we need to catch up,” Hogsett said.

Chief Roach says he has seen an increase in violence in recent years surrounding marijuana and has some concerns jumping on board the new policy to ignore simple marijuana possession. He added that behind marijuana possession is a dealer and a weapon, and that is not something that should be ignored.