Cincinnati Moves To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession | WOSU Radio

Cincinnati Moves To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

May 13, 2019
Originally published on May 15, 2019 6:51 am

The full Cincinnati City Council could vote Wednesday to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in the city.

The Law and Public Safety Committee approved two different proposals Monday, with Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and Council Member Jeff Pastor supporting both. Council Member Amy Murray was opposed.

One plan would apply to possession of up to 200 grams, and the other would drop that down to 100 grams. 

The ordinance states "no person shall knowingly obtain, possess, or use marijuana, in an amount less than 200 grams." 

But the next section says "whoever violates this section is guilty of possession of marijuana, a minor misdemeanor.  Person convicted of violating this section shall be fined $0."

So possession of up to 100 or 200 grams of marijuana would carry no fine, no jail time and no court costs.  The city could ask for no court costs, but that's up to Hamilton County Municipal Court judges and officials.

The ordinance says minor misdemeanor violations don't "constitute a criminal record," and don't necessarily have to be reported on job applications. But some employers may still require that information based on the position.

"What I'm targeting is someone having one joint in their hand is really my interest," Smitherman said. He co-sponsored the proposal with Pastor. "And that car is stopped, and that person then isn't facing jail time because they have a joint."

Smitherman did propose lowing the threshold to 100 grams after Police Chief Eliot Isaac expressed concern about 200 grams, which is just under a half-pound of pot.

"A half a pound is something that we need to consider very hard," Isaac said. "You talk about what's personal use and what's used for distribution. That is something that I would like us to work through before council passes this."

Council Member Amy Murray also wanted a vote on the issues delayed until the city's law department and the police department could prepare a report.

"As far as the impacts, if we do this, what does is mean and to answer a lot of these questions," Murray said. "I don't feel like we have enough information to go forward as far as the consequences."

Right now the city doesn't have a marijuana possession law.  City officers cite under state law.

In Ohio, possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, which can result in up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. For amounts up to 100 grams, that's a citation of up to $150.

The city's proposed ordinance would only apply to CPD officers.  Other agencies who operate in the city including the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department and the Ohio State Highway Patrol could still cite under state law.

Voters in Norwood last year approved a similar measure decriminalizing possession of marijuana. But Smitherman said that city's police department is still citing using state law.

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