EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) – Major Jason Ashworth has officially filed for Vanderburgh County Sheriff, making him the first Democratic candidate to file for the office in 2022.

During his filing ceremony Wednesday, Ashworth touched on his almost-29 years of law enforcement experience while revealing parts of his platform- including a pledge to end all arrests for “simple marijuana possession.”

Ashworth says the policy would give the Sheriff’s Office more time and resources to focus on other issues, including fentanyl and illegal guns. Ashworth says Evansville and Vanderburgh County have a gun problem, calling it a “violent situation in our city and our county.”

In a statement, Ashworth’s campaign says arrests for simple marijuana possession “disproportionately impact people of color.” IUPUI assistant professor Dan Orenstein says African Americans in Indiana are “about three times more likely” to be arrested for simple marijuana possession than white Hoosiers, despite similar usage rates. Orenstein says policies like Ashworth’s proposal could help close the disparity.

Orenstein says law enforcement agencies have the “discretion” to not arrest people for simple marijuana possession, despite the fact marijuana is still illegal statewide. Orenstein says similar proposals have been implemented in other parts of the state and compared it to speeding or jaywalking- which are technically illegal but don’t always result in a ticket.

Ashworth, a Democrat, is running to replace term-limited Sheriff Dave Wedding. Another member of the Sheriff’s Office, former Chief Deputy Noah Robinson, is expected to file on Thursday.