Marijuana Decriminalization Spreads in Ohio After Election

Three cities in Ohio passed “sensible” marijuana ordinances in Tuesday election, lowering penalties for cannabis possession to the lowest penalty the state allows.

Tuesday marked an election victory for cannabis reform advocates in Ohio. Three municipalities in the state approved “sensible” marijuana ordinances, reducing low-level cannabis possession from a misdemeanor to a lower penalty with no fine.

Bill Schmitt, Jr., who has directed numerous efforts for the nonprofit Sensible Movement Coalition, told WOUB Public Media that it was an important victory because even misdemeanor charges can have an adverse impact on a person’s future.

“It could stop you from getting a job, it could stop you from getting into Section 8 housing …You can’t get some student loans …You can’t adopt a child,” Schmit t told WOUB. “You could be making these mistakes when you’re 18. When you’re 28, you want to adopt a child and you can’t? That doesn’t really make sense.”

The victories took place in Bremen, Nelsonville, and Northwood, three cities with a collective population of approximately 12,000. In Northwood, the new ordinance changes marijuana possession of 20 grams or less from a misdemeanor to no penalty or fine.

The Sensible Movement Coalition congratulated the cities who voted for the measure in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, pledging “it is when, not if- that this horrible prohibition will end!”

“Last night we won 3 additional cities in Ohio that will now have a $0 fine local marijuana ordinance! Congratulations to Bremen, Nelsonville and Northwood, Ohio…This makes 18 Ohio cities that have enacted better marijuana laws than the state itself. Over 2 million Ohioans are now protected by better local marijuana laws,” the Sensible Movement Coalition post stated.

Three other Ohio cities rejected similar “sensible” cannabis reform initiatives on Tuesday. According to local reports, a marijuana decriminalization ordinance failed in Amherst with a vote of 52 percent against and 47 percent in favor. In the small community of Wren, the ordinance failed by two votes, and in the village of Adena it failed with a vote of 126-107.

In the last several years, voters in six other Ohio cities have approved decriminalization initiatives. Those include Athens, Bellaire, Logan, Newark, Roseville, and Toledo. During the 2019 summer, Cincinnati and Ohio state capital Columbus both approved similar decriminalization measures.

A Cleveland City Council introduced a cannabis reform ordinance in July, but no action has been taken.

Ohio Marijuana Laws

Recreational cannabis is prohibited in the state, despite recent efforts by groups including Ohio Families For Change. The most recent initiative spread hope in the form of an amendment to the state constitution, but according to reports fizzled out due to high costs of statewide campaigns.

No such initiative made it on to the 2019 ballot and no reports have been made on plans for a ballot initiative in 2020.

Ohio residents do have legal access to marijuana for medical purposes. In 2016, Ohio lawmakers passed House Bill 523 to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program in the state. A majority of Ohio medical marijuana patients are older than the age of 40, according to new state figures.

Learn more about Ohio marijuana laws.

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