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Five Ohio Cities Decriminalize Marijuana

Five Ohio Cities Decriminalize Marijuana

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—ToledoLoganRosevilleBellaireNewark 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

Pennsylvania Lawmakers To Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization This Week

Pennsylvania Lawmakers To Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization This Week

A bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana could advance in the Pennsylvania legislature this week.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the bill, which was filed by Republican state Rep. Barry Jozwiak, a former state trooper and Berks County sheriff. The legislation seeks to make possession of under 30 grams of cannabis a summary offense punishable by up to a $300 fine and no jail time for first- and second-time offenders.

Though simple possession is already effectively decriminalized in several Pennsylvania jurisdictions, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, state law considers the offense a third-degree misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to a $500 fine, up to 30 days of jail time and a drivers license suspension.

“Downgrading this offense from a misdemeanor to a summary offense would have a positive effect on local law enforcement efforts, allowing police and prosecutors to focus their time and resources on more serious offenses,” Jozwiak wrote in a co-sponsorship memorandum in February 2017.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I strongly believe in cracking down on drug dealers and those who prey on the young or weak with drugs. But those defendants are addressed elsewhere in the Controlled Substances Act. For individuals who merely possess small amounts of marijuana, I believe this adjusted grading makes sense.”

A prior version of the bill was introduced in 2015, but it did not receive a committee vote. And while marijuana reform advocates are supportive of efforts to eliminate criminal punishments for cannabis offenses, some view Jozwiak’s bill as a red herring.

“Reducing the misdemeanor level offense to a non-traffic summary citation will keep thousands out of the criminal justice system and will help to alleviate the disparity in cannabis enforcement,” Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “We cannot, however, support legislation that will nonetheless continue to expose Pennsylvanians to criminal prosecution.”

“HB 928 would escalate to a misdemeanor if the individual has two prior summary convictions for cannabis possession. An amendment would also criminalize mere possession in a motor vehicle. We believe this will continue to incentivize law enforcement to harass cannabis consumers. We also believe this is yet another attempt to control cannabis consumption through with threats of criminal prosecution which has proven to be an abysmal failure.”

Under Jozwiak’s bill, a third marijuana possession offense would be considered a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and no jail time. The individual’s third possession offense would lead to a drivers license suspension, but that suspension would expire after six months.

Nightingale and other advocates have their sites set on more far-reaching proposed marijuana reforms.

A majority of Pennsylvania voters (59 percent) back full marijuana legalization. But political leadership on the issue has been lacking in the Keystone State, leaving a void for reform that either party could theoretically occupy.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is a supporter of the state’s medical cannabis program, which he signed into law, but said as recently as Monday that he’s not ready back a bill to legalize marijuana for adult-use and wants to continue to observe other legal states before enacting such a program in Pennsylvania.

Wolf does, however, favor decriminalizing marijuana. And his lieutenant governor running mate, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, supports outright legalization.

Meanwhile, the state House and Senate is GOP-run. Though there’s modest support for basic reform efforts such as decriminalization, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai (R) has represented a consistent roadblock on the path to legalization. He was reportedly brought to tears at a closed-door caucus meeting about a prospective medical marijuana program in 2015.

If the Jozwiak decriminalization bill makes it our of the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, it’s unclear if or when it would be scheduled for floor action.

Opinions about legalization notwithstanding, there’s considerable support for marijuana reform across the United States. Pennsylvania is no exception, and it’s increasingly apparent that lawmakers on both side of the aisle who align themselves with moves to change cannabis laws are likely to find supportive constituents.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Pennsylvania Lawmakers To Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization This Week

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

Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Moves Forward in Chile

Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Moves Forward in Chile

When medical marijuana was legalized in Chile last year, it became the first country in South America to implement a government-backed program that allowed the cultivation of its own cannabis. A few months before Chile legalized it for medicinal use and cultivation, Uruguay became the first country in South America to implement full legalization.

As time goes by, the benefits of marijuana as a medicine are beginning to become more accepted, and demand for the product is growing. In La Florida, Chile, last year, the Daya Foundation was charged with spearheading the growing project. Nicolas Dormal, a leader and co-founder of the foundation stated:

“Eventually, we want to make cannabis medicine available for everybody, even if they can’t afford it.”

Unlike Uruguay, Chile’s acceptance did not originally extend to personal use. Less than a year ago, Rodolfo Carter, the mayor of the town where the marijuana was planted, stated:

“We don’t want to get into a debate about the personal use of marijuana.”

chile

What started as an attitude of approval for marijuana’s medical benefits, however, has since expanded into a greater desire for it to also be accepted for personal use. The lower house of the Chilean Congress has just approved a bill that not only decriminalizes recreational use, but which would also allow residents to grow their own cannabis in small quantities. Despite some criticism from a few representatives, the bill passed by a huge margin, with 68 voting in favor of the measure and only 39 voting against it.

If fully implemented, each household will be permitted to grow a maximum of six plants for recreational, medicinal or spiritual use, something that has previously been punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Before the measure is finalized, however, it will need to go through two more steps. First, it will be presented to a health commission. If it gains approval, it will then go to the Senate for a final vote.

Proponents remain hopeful that once adopted, the law will aid patients in gaining affordable access to the medicinal marijuana that is badly needed.

photo credit: BBC

Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Approved in Delaware

Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Approved in Delaware

Following the signing of House Bill 39 by Gov. Jack Markell (D) on Thursday, June 18, Delaware has become the 20th state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley (D) in the house and sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chair Margaret Rose Henry (D) in the Senate, where it was approved by a 12-9 vote without receiving support from any Republican senators.

The bill will remove criminal penalties for an adult in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Marijuana possession will now be considered a civil offense and punishable by a $100 fine. Marijuana sales will still be illegal throughout the state of Delaware.

The current state marijuana laws have had an inordinate impact on the African-American population. According to a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans in Delaware are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

With a similar bill awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature in Illinois, the number of states decriminalizing smaller amounts of marijuana is continuing to grow. Robert Capecchi, the deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, commended Delaware for their progressive stance on marijuana:

“We commend Gov. Markell and the Delaware Legislature for moving the state forward and leaving its antiquated marijuana possession law behind. Adults in Delaware will no longer be branded as criminals simply for consuming a substance that is undeniably less harmful than alcohol. Law enforcement officials will be able to spend more time addressing serious crimes instead of arresting and prosecuting adults for simple marijuana possession.”

The new marijuana laws and regulations will take effect in six months.

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