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Indiana State Police Chief Paul Whitesell: Legalize & Tax Marijuana

The head of the Indiana State Police has advised a group of state legislators that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use and taxed.

WFPL reports that ISP Superintendent Paul Whitesell was asked about marijuana during a recent meeting of the State Budget Committee. Whitesell said that while he has spent the past 40 years doing his best to enforce drug laws, the time has come for change, especially considering recent voter initiatives approving recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state.

“It’s here, it’s going to stay, there’s an awful lot of victimization that goes with it,” Whitesell said of legal weed. “If it were up to me, I do believe I would legalize it and tax it, particularly in sight of the fact that several other states have now come to that part of their legal system as well.”

Whitesell also offered some thoughts about how a legalization and taxation regimen might operate.

“Wherein if you’re going to imbibe, you would go through [an agency] to be recognized or to pay your taxes and keep some sense of it, give us some stats so you could monitor it in some fashion. And if you go around it in some other place, that’s where my folks would come in and take issue,” he said.

After Whitesell’s remarks were widely disseminated, the Indiana State Police released a statement describing his comments as “philosophical” and not an actual endorsement of legalization.

“Although the superintendent personally understands the theoretical argument for taxation and legalization, as a police officer with over 40 years experience he does not support the legalization of marijuana,” the statement read.

The Indianapolis Star reports that state Sen. Karen Tallian, a Democrat, favors recreational legalization. And state Sen. Brent Steele, a Republican, reportedly wants to decrease penalties for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor carrying a $5,000 fine and jail time to an infraction and a $500 fine.

Robin Alexander, a member of the Indiana board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told RTV 6 that Sup. Whitesell had the right idea.

“He’s right, he’s absolutely right, and he’s been on the force long enough to know what’s real,” Alexander said. “The penalties are much too severe, and they have been for a very long time. It’s well understood that having a certain amount of marijuana will put you away for longer than killing your whole family. It’s just a fact of life [that] the War on Drugs has failed.”

Indiana NORML claims that the state spends around $150 million annually fighting marijuana, while legalizing the plant could bring in more than $50 million in yearly revenue.

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