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Delaware County Prosecutor Reacts to Acting Marion County Prosecutor's Decision Involving Marijuana

MUNCIE, Ind. (NewsLink Indiana) — Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman said he disagrees with acting Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears. He called this move a disregard of the legislative process taking place at the Statehouse. He released a statement:

"I do not understand the acting Marion County Prosecutor's decision to not enforce and ignore criminal laws that are on the books. I completely understand and respect that in a free society anyone can advocate and lobby the legislature to legalize marijuana. That is a debate that belongs in the Statehouse with our lawmakers. However, that is not what is happening in Indianapolis. Prosecutors have absolute discretion in deciding when to file criminal charges and how to allocate their resources. However, typically prosecutors carefully exercise this discretion based upon the specific and individualized facts and circumstances of each case rather than proclaiming that in all cases they will ignore a particular state law not to their liking. I took an oath to faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of the Prosecuting Attorney. One of those duties is to enforce the criminal laws of the State of Indiana, which is the fundamental role of a prosecuting attorney. As prosecutor of Delaware County, I will continue to enforce the laws of the State of Indiana, including those relating to marijuana, unless and until such time as the general assembly passes a bill which is signed into law by the governor that decriminalizes marijuana," said Hoffman. 

Hoffman's reaction comes after acting Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said he won't prosecute anyone who is caught with less than one ounce of marijuana. In a statement:

"I have come to this decision as a veteran prosecutor. I have seen the resources devoted to these prosecutions and believe those resources can be used more effectively to promote public safety, ensure justice for victims, and reduce recidivism. When faced with the choice between prosecuting this and prosecuting acts of violence, my priority is clear. Too often, an arrest for marijuana possession puts individuals into the system who otherwise would not be. That is not a win for our community. The enforcement of marijuana policy has disproportionately impacted people of color, and this is a first step to addressing that," said Mears.  

Hoffman said he feels his comments were taken out of context. He released another statement:

"I think my comments have been misconstrued by some. I have no problem with anyone who wants to go to the statehouse and advocate for legalization of marijuana. You have every right to lobby your elected legislators to do so. That is the way laws get changed: in in the legislature. If the legislature decides to legalize marijuana, so be it. That is their decision to make. I have simply said that as prosecutor, I have taken an oath to enforce the laws of the State of Indiana that are currently on the books. I do not believe I have the luxury to pick and choose what laws to enforce and which laws not to enforce. We make charging decisions (whether to charge someone with a crime) based upon the specific and individualized facts of each particular case. When marijuana cases are filed, I can assure you they are not overcrowding the jail. Possession of marijuana is a low level misdemeanor and is treated as such,"said Hoffman.