INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Both IMPD Chief Bryan Roach and Mayor Joe Hogsett said on Tuesday that they did not know about the announcement beforehand.
On Monday, interim Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced the office will not be prosecuting minor marijuana cases any longer. That means when someone is arrested for having an ounce or less of marijuana, they will not be prosecuted.
According to state law, possession of marijuana for that amount can be prosecuted as a Level B Misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Chief Roach wants his community to know it is business as usual for his officers.
"If you are in possession of misdemeanor marijuana, it is against the law and you may still be arrested," he said.
Chief Roach wants you to understand that marijuana is still illegal in Indiana. When it comes to arrests, he said his officers will exercise discretion.
"We are able to extend investigations sometimes because something illegal is occurring and that will continue to occur and that is a tool we are using in order to address violence," he said.
Mayor Hogsett he has as many questions as he has answers. He said he still needs time to catch up and understand the new policy.
"I want to be supportive of anything our community needs to do to make our criminal justice process equitable and fair," he said.
Mears said the prosecutor's office is changing the policy because they want police officers to prioritize violent crime. Other county prosecutors do not support the decision.
"I just do not think it is healthy or necessarily appropriate for those of us who swear an oath to enforce the law and then just decide we are going to pick and choose," said Rodney Cummings, Madison County Prosecutor.
Cummings does not believe this move is productive since urban communities like his rarely prosecute these cases anyway.
"Especially in a community like this that has so many other criminal justice needs, it is so far down our priority list," Cummings said. "It just does not get much attention."
Mears said more than 80% of minor marijuana cases in Marion County were not being pursued already. Still, this announcement does not mean Indianapolis police officers are going to top investigating.
"He still has to do a report, he is still going to search that car," said Chief Roach. "All of that work is going to continue to occur."
Other police departments in Marion County, including Speedway Police and Lawrence Police, also said their jobs are not changing.
Marion County Prosecutor's office is working to get records expunged. One law office in Indianapolis said they received nearly 10 calls this morning from people asking for help.
If you need assistance for expungements, the prosecutor's office said the Expungement Helpdesk is open Tuesday-Friday in the basement of the City-county building. They provide no-cost assistance.
Merritt for Indy Campaign sent the following statement about the prosecutor's announcement. Jim Merritt running against Hogsett for Indianapolis mayor.
"I applaud any and every effort to review the fairness of our criminal justice system as has been happening at the Indiana State House through criminal justice reform and study committees on Indiana’s Cannabis laws. However, as I have been saying throughout this campaign, there is serious work that needs to be done to dedicate resources to stopping violent crime in the city and any effort to stem the bloodshed in our streets is welcome."
Some Indiana lawmakers do support the new policy. In the past, Representative Jim Lucas pressured lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana.
“While we must urge extreme caution when disregarding established law, there are times when such actions are not only necessary, but a duty as well. Given the overwhelming evidence of the benefits and better quality of life that cannabis offers, I applaud Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Myers for showing the courage to do what is morally right by not prosecuting low level cannabis use. Not only will this policy free up valuable and limited public safety resources to focus on violent crimes, but the obvious chaos it introduces to our current immoral and misguided state laws regarding cannabis should force the long overdue discussion that is owed to Hoosiers next legislative session.”