GREENFIELD — Earlier this month, a group of friends was sitting in an apartment when they heard an unexpected knock at the door.
The police officer on the other side was there to ask about an illegally parked car after receiving a complaint. But several of them had been smoking marijuana, and the police officer at the door could smell it.
Minutes later, they were all in police custody, handcuffed and headed to jail on criminal charges including possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor.
But for Michelle Atkins, the 21-year-old tenant, the charge is a felony. Maintaining a common nuisance – effectively, being the person in whose home people are using drugs – carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
An increasing number of states – Colorado and Washington among the most recent – are taking steps to legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana use. The issue is being discussed more in Indiana as well: State senators are talking about decriminalization, a lesser step than outright legalization.