INDIANAPOLIS — The Democratic candidate for Indiana attorney general hopes his push to legalize marijuana helps him win at the polls.
Jonathan Weinzapfel and Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears discussed legalization and regulation of marijuana on Friday.
Weinzapfel has already called on state lawmakers to legalize marijuana. He said it is important to stop prosecuting simple marijuana possession cases. Legalizing and taxing it, he said, could generate $171 million annually for schools and public safety improvements across the state.
"This is a great source of funding to help pay for our public education, to help give teachers a raise and to help fund criminal justice," Weinzapfel said.
Mears discussed the Marion County Prosecutor's Office no longer prosecuting simple marijuana possession cases. He said it helps keep people out of the system who don't need to be there because they are non-violent. He also said those cases unfairly target people of color.
"If someone wants to smoke a joint on their back porch I don't necessarily require the involvement of the criminal justice system, the prosecutor's office or the attorney general's office," Mears said Friday.
His decision last year was not met well by some local law enforcement leaders like Bryan Roach, who was the chief of police at IMPD at the time. Roach responded by informing the media that his officers would continue to arrest people for possessing marijuana because it is still against Indiana law.
For his part, Weinzapfel said he will work with the legislation, if elected, to start moving toward legalization and regulation of both medical and recreational marijuana.
“As attorney general, I would work with the Indiana General Assembly to create a well-regulated system and advocate that tax dollars generated from the sale of recreational cannabis to be directed towards public schools and giving teachers a raise," Weinzapfel said in a statement Monday. "I also would push for a portion of those new dollars to be invested in supporting and improving public safety."
Weinzapfel also pointed out that Michigan and Illinois have already legalized marijuana use recreationally while Ohio allows it for medical purposes.
13News reached out to Republican candidate for attorney general Todd Rokita who issued a response reading in part:
“Jonathan Weinzapfel is high if he believes the most important issue to Hoosiers is marijuana. Right now Indiana is continuing to recover from a pandemic and I am focused on helping our economy fully recover, upholding our Constitution, and protecting Hoosiers from crime.
"I have the endorsements of Indiana’s police and law enforcement organizations, including the FOP and State Troopers, he has none. I have experience taking on criminals and helping with prosecutions, he has no experience in those matters. I am 100% focused on helping the economy recover from the pandemic, he is talking smoking marijuana."