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Justices reject marijuana ‘pursuit of happiness’ appeal

May 15, 2019

The state’s high court will not partake in arguments that laws criminalizing marijuana violated a man’s right to the pursuit of happiness, snuffing out his challenge to Indiana’s pot prohibition.

Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court last week denied transfer in John L. Solomon v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2041, which posed to the court the novel question of whether laws against marijuana deprived Solomon of his constitutional rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness under Article 1, Section 1, of the Indiana Constitution.

Solomon was arrested after a traffic stop when police found a marijuana blunt near where he had been sitting in the backseat. Police said Solomon claimed nothing in the car was his except the blunt, but at a bench trial more than a year later, he testified he didn’t know about the blunt and that he had told an officer it didn’t belong to him. Solomon was ultimately convicted of Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Although Solomon raised an argument under the Indiana Constitution challenging Indiana’s criminal law against marijuana, the Indiana Court of Appeals declined to accept Solomon’s assertion that his conviction violated his rights.

The COA found the argument waived because it was not raised in the trial court, and that even if it had been justiciable, reversal was not warranted. The COA also held that whether possession of marijuana under the circumstances constituted a criminal offense was a legislative determination, not a judicial one.

Indiana, meanwhile, remains in the minority of states that have not legalized marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes. At least 30 states have done so, but while numerous bills were introduced in the Indiana General Assembly this year that would have legalized marijuana, the bills made little progress.

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