Ohio Police Plan To Ignore Marijuana Ballot Measure

Ohio Police Plan To Ignore Marijuana Ballot Measure

Even if voters in a Cincinnati enclave approve a local marijuana depenalization measure this fall, the city’s police chief has promised to continue arresting and charging cannabis consumers with misdemeanors under state law, which will remain unchanged.

Norwood, Ohio is a city of about 20,000 people located entirely within the city limits of much-larger Cincinnati in Hamilton County.

On Monday, the Hamilton County Board of Elections announced a ballot measure that would eliminate all criminal penalties for possession of 200 grams or less of marijuana will appear on Norwood voters’ ballots in November after activists collected a sufficient number of signatures to qualify the measure.

Simple possession of marijuana in Ohio is currently a misdemeanor, punishable by a $150 fine. Possession of between 100 and 200 grams is a misdemeanor that carries penalties of no more than 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. The ballot initiative would remove all such fines and penalties under city code.

But even if Norwood voters approve the measure, Norwood police will continue to make marijuana arrests as before, police Chief William Kramer told the Cincinnati Enquirer, and charge offenders under the harsher state law.

“This [ballot initiative] deals with Norwood’s codified ordinance and doesn’t have anything to do with state law,” Kramer told the newspaper. “We really wouldn’t change how we do things. We would simply, from the very beginning, charge them under state code.”

Kramer’s intransigence comes despite a steady march towards relaxed marijuana laws in Ohio and across the country.

State lawmakers in Ohio legalized medical cannabis in 2016. Patients are due to access cannabis in retail dispensaries in the coming months. And activists are considering pursuing a statewide 2019 ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana statewide

And other police forces in cities in Ohio and across the country are taking a more relaxed stance towards marijuana possession.

According to NORML, more than 50 local governments in 12 states have either fully or partially decriminalized “minor cannabis possession offenses.”

This includes the following cities in Ohio: Athens, Bellaire, Logan, Newark, Roseville and Toledo. Of these, Toledo, at about 278,000 people, is by far the largest in the state.

Meanwhile, voters in additional Ohio cities like Fremont, Nelsonville and Oregon might have the chance to vote on cannabis depenalization measures in November as well.

However, state lawmakers as well as law enforcement elsewhere in the U.S. have found ways to scotch local plans to decriminalize marijuana possession and re-prioritize police practices.

Twelve out of the 61 police jurisdictions in Harris County, Texas—where police can refer marijuana offenders to a diversion program rather than the criminal justice system—have so far declined to participate, the Houston Chronicle reported.

And in Tennessee, where city councils in both Memphis and Nashville passed decriminalization laws, Republican state lawmakers responded with their own bill, signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, that repealed both local decriminalization measures.

Back in Norwood, a 2016 proposal to relax enforcement of marijuana crimes was rejected by the Board of Elections, after the agency’s chairman said that proponent Sensible Norwood’s proposal went too far in prohibiting police from referring marijuana offenders to state courts.

That led to this year’s slightly watered-down proposal—which, as Chief Kramer is demonstrating, may be too weak to be obeyed.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Ohio Police Plan To Ignore Marijuana Ballot Measure

Photo by niu niu on Unsplash

Cincinnati Will Erase Your Marijuana Arrest

Cincinnati Will Erase Your Marijuana Arrest

Cincinnati City Council member Charlie Winburn is pushing to erase low-level marijuana infractions from the records of nearly 10,000 residents. The City Council had an initial vote on Monday which favored the legislation 4-0 and is expecting the fifth and final vote needed to pass the law tomorrow.

Starting back in 2006, the city of Cincinnati was issuing harsher penalties than the state of Ohio for low-level marijuana possession. Yesterday, the Cincinnati City Council heard statements from the Cincinnati Public Defenders Office regarding the severe implications that marijuana penalties can bring to someone’s life. Public housing, access to educational programs, and career paths can all be derailed by a small marijuana infraction under current laws.

Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said that he would have not asked for tougher enforcement if he were in office in 2006. “We’re in support of anything that helps Cincinnati become a better city,” Blackwell said.

Charlie Winburn who is leading the effort to change city policy is aiming to reduce previous penalties to low level misdemeanors, effectively sealing those records. Once “sealed,” infractions in which offenders possessed less than 100 grams of marijuana would be inaccessible from background checks by employers, educational institutions, and some government programs.

“The trend in what we’re seeing across the country is that marijuana is being treated completely differently and it’s kind of sweeping across the United States of America,” said City Council Member Chris Smitherman. This is certainly evident with cities like Philadelphia opting to decriminalize marijuana as recent as last week. Look for more American cities to begin decriminalizing marijuana over the course of the next few years as low-level offenses are increasingly recognized as more harmful than helpful.

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