Five out of six Ohio cities that had local marijuana decriminalization measures on the ballot have passed the initiatives, including in the state’s sixth most populous city.
Decriminalization passed in Dayton, Fremont, Norwood, Oregon and Windham. Voters in Garrettsville rejected the local measure, though.
Currently, getting caught possessing up to 200 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor in Ohio, punishable by a $150 to $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail, depending on the exact amount. These measures won’t affect state law, but it will help protect cannabis consumers in municipalities that approve the initiatives through local ordinances.
Here’s the text of each measure.
PASSED—Dayton: “Shall the Dayton Revised Code of General Ordinances be amended to decriminalize specific misdemeanor marijuana and hashish offenses?”
PASSED—Fremont: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
REJECTED—Garrettsville: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
PASSED—Norwood: “Shall the proposed ordinance adding Section 513.15 Marijuana Laws and Penalties to the City of Norwood Municipal Code, which would lower the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law, be adopted?”
PASSED—Oregon: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
PASSED—Windham: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
Six other Ohio cities—Toledo, Logan, Roseville, Bellaire, Newark and Athens—have approved decriminalization initiatives over the past three years.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect new information about how each Ohio city voted on local marijuana measures.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Five Ohio Cities Decriminalize Marijuana
The Obama administration was perhaps the closest presidential ally the cannabis community has ever had. But his policies were mostly indifferent towards legalization, despite small steps to reduce the Justice Department and the DEA’s efforts towards marijuana enforcement. At best, the cannabis community could rely on the administration to turn a blind eye.
But it turns out the Office of National Drug Control Policy felt differently. This office serves as the home of the nation’s “drug czar.” Unlike the DEA, which enforces laws regarding drugs, the ONDCP helps the government decide on those laws. former deputy director of the ONDCP, A. Thomas McLellan, who worked during Obama’s first term in office reported,
“ONDCP was in favor of decriminalizing but not legalizing.”
A law passed in 1988 officially launched the ONDCP and stated, “the legalization of illegal drugs is an unconscionable surrender in the war on drugs.” When the office needed to be reauthorized, additional language was added that required those working for the ONDCP to “oppose any attempt to legalize” cannabis, and not use any federal funding to research the scenario of legalization. Because of this directive, those working for the ONDCP under Obama felt they couldn’t openly discuss their views on legalization, despite working in a government office whose directive is to advise and shape drug policy.
“It forced the office to take a policy position that it may or may not agree to,” said Michael Botticelli, former director of the ONDCP. “[It] hamstrings you into a policy position that might be the policy of the day but that might change.”
Those few words directing the ONDCP to disregard cannabis legalization hurt the legitimacy of the office and sent mixed signals to cannabis activists. One former staffer said the language, “makes it look like the office’s primary purpose is to oppose marijuana.”
Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, explained the effect this has had on legalization.
“The existence of that statute, that prohibition, has been something that our movement has held up to criticize ONDCP. Taking that off the table would be good for us and it would also be good for them. … It makes them look political in ways that their scientists probably don’t want to be.”
An attempt was made to remove language that was stifling the ONDCP, and Botticelli had to work around the language as well as his own stance when fielding questions about the bill. When the bill failed, Botticelli and his office continued to work around the policy itself by supporting drug rehabilitation and awareness regarding drug addiction, a push towards making drug abuse a medical condition rather than a criminal one.
“We can’t arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people,” Botticelli said during a “60 Minutes” interview in 2015.
“Not only do I think it’s really inhumane, but it’s ineffective and it cost us billions upon billions of dollars to keep doing this.”
Botticelli then reinforced this view when the District of Columbia pushed for legalization. He said,
“I might not agree about legalization, but I do agree with our own ability to spend our own money the way that we want to.”
But this is as far as the ONDCP went. Drug legalization is a political issue that’s laced with moral judgement and false data, and the lawmakers responsible for funding his office were also responsible for the failed bill that would have allowed the ONDCP to truly serve their purpose.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration seems to be reactivating old policies that have proven ineffective against substance abuse. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called upon federal prosecutors to return to a “tough on crime” approach towards sentencing. “It seems like we are moving backwards instead of forward,” said Botticelli. “And to a position that I think doesn’t have a lot of science and evidence. We’ve tried that approach for a very long time, and it doesn’t seem to really have made a significant difference.”
Possessing personal amounts of cannabis in New Orleans will no longer be considered a criminal offense as of June 21, 2016. The New Orleans city council approved the ordinance on March 17, and Mayor Landrieu signed it on March 23.
The ordinance, introduced by council member Susan Guidry, allows law enforcement offers in The Big Easy to write offenders tickets in lieu of making arrests. Any issued marijuana possession tickets may also come with fines. First time offenders may receive a ticket with a fine of $40, the second time the fine increases to $60, and the third time increases to $80. If a person is caught in possession four or more times, they may be responsible for paying a fine of $100.
Personal possession is considered to be any amount of 14 grams or less (about one-half an ounce).
While the city of New Orleans is practicing policy reform, state law remains the same. This means that technically, officers can still arrest anyone for possession. Smoking cannabis in public will also remain illegal.
In October of 2014, personal cannabis possession was decriminalized in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the City of Brotherly Love. Now, the city council of Pittsburgh has voted to do the same within it’s city limits about 300 miles away.
The bill, sponsored by Councilman Daniel Lavelle, was supported in a 7 to 2 vote by the council on Monday December 21. Now, instead of being charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense, those caught in possession of up to 30 grams of dried cannabis flowers or up to 8 grams of concentrates in Pittsburgh may be cited and fined up to $100. If the person cited for personal possession of cannabis is under the age of 18, parents or guardians will be notified and held responsible for the fine.
Councilman Ricky Burgess, supported the bill even though he does not condone drug use.
“I think young people who make mistakes should not suffer lifelong consequences on something that I think is perhaps not life-threatening,”
This move by the Pittsburgh city council is aligned with the opinions of the majority of voters, according to recent polls. The most recent Quinnipiac University poll revealed that 51 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe that personal possession and use should be legal, and 88 percent responded that the medicinal use of cannabis should be legal. Nearly 60 percent of adults in the United States are estimated to support the full, federal legalization of the plant.
Referred to as a “common sense change that will help protect the futures of young people” by a city spokes person, Mayor Bill Peduto is expected to sign the bill.