The most populated county in Indiana, Marion County, on Monday announced it will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases for individuals caught with an ounce or less of the drug.
Acting Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced the policy change, according to the Indianapolis Star, saying his office would not file charges if an individual is caught with an ounce or less. The new policy goes into effect immediately.
"We're going to continue to prosecute individuals who use marijuana during the course of an accident or if they're impaired for marijuana, those types of cases," he said. "And also public consumption. 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. That's not what this is about. This is about making sure that we treat everybody fairly."
He added that the new enforcement policy will allow his office to focus more on violent crimes.
"Let's get those officers involved in trying to track down the people who are involved in nonfatal shootings and homicides, as opposed to worrying about basic possession of marijuana cases,” Mears told the news outlet regarding police officers and their views towards implementing the new policy.
Marion County encompasses the city of Indianapolis and had already began prosecuting fewer marijuana-related cases in the past few years.
The Indianapolis Star noted the Marion County prosecutor's office dismissed 65 percent of marijuana possession cases in 2017, with that number rising to 74 percent last year.
"It clogs up the court calendars, and it disrupts people's lives," Mears 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 percent of the cases, it does not make sense to file a case."
The move by Marion County comes shortly after New York last month officially decriminalized the use of marijuana.
The new law in New York downgrades the criminal penalty for the unlawful possession of pot from a misdemeanor to a fine.