INDIANAPOLIS--If you are convicted of simple marijuana possession on the federal level, having it on your record can keep you from getting a student loan, a job, or buying or renting a house. That’s one reason Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears says he believes the president’s decision to pardon people convicted on simple possession charges is a good one.
“We meet a lot of people in the community who are being held back by the fact they have these prior marijuana convictions,” he tells WISH TV. “I don’t think people realize some of the collateral consequences to these types of offenses.”
Mears, a Democrat who is running for re-election, stopped prosecuting simple possession charges on the state level.
“We don’t prosecute that simple possession of marijuana because we are focused on violent crime,” he said. Mears said to him it doesn’t make sense to go after someone who just has a joint. “It doesn’t make the community any safer.”
He’s faced criticism for that decision, including an attempt to pass a law in the state legislature that would allow the state attorney general to step in amd prosecute crimes that the county prosecutor ignores. That bill failed.
Mears also said that the decision would benefit people of color.
“In particular when you look at the racial disparities that exist between whose ultimately prosecuted for possession of marijuana and you compare that to marijuana usage rates across races, there’s a clear disparity there,” he said.
Mears said that’s one reason he stopped prosecuting those cases.
“When we see those types of inequities in our criminal justice system, it’s important that the prosecutor’s office acts.”
Mears opponent, Republican Cindy Carasco, told WISH TV that she doesn’t believe decisions on federal marijuana charges should be made by the president alone.
“If President Biden was serious about updating federal marijuana laws, he should call on congress to modernize any marijuana laws that burden the criminal justice system. It is up to congress and state legislatures to make any further changes they see fit. I look forward to these conversations,” she said in a prepared statement.
Carasco said she is not running for prosecutor to focus on simple possession charges, and that if she were elected, she’d determine charges on a case by case basis, using common sense.