Measures to eliminate all criminal penalties associated with the small possession of marijuana passed in four Ohio cities.
Several communities throughout the state of Ohio approved initiatives to decriminalize the possession of marijuana, Cleveland.com reports. At the same time that eight states passed marijuana measures, voters in Newark, Bellaire, Logan and Roseville quietly made the small possession of marijuana no longer a crime. An identical measure was presented to voters in Byesville but rejected.
The possession of less than 200 grams in each of the four cities is now a minor misdemeanor and subject to no fines or jail time. This is a significant step up from Ohio’s law, under which the offense of possession is punishable to up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $250. The new law also removes driver’s license suspensions for minor marijuana violations and forbids any small possession violation from being reported to a professional licensing board or agency.
Responsible for pushing the decriminalization measures forward was an organization that calls itself Sensible Bellaire. Bill Schmitt Jr., who had previously done work with ResponsibleOhio, the group behind the failed effort to legalize adult use marijuana earlier last year, started the small organization.
Schmitt Jr. believes the new ordinances will free up police to focus on fighting more serious problems, such as the heroin and opioid problem plaguing the state. Opioid overdose took the life of 28,000 Ohioans in 2014, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control. Additionally, Schmitt Jr. claims, the new laws will also prevent residents who need cannabis for medical purposes and are unable to get it through legal means from being punished.
Ohio passed House Bill 523 to establish comprehensive medical marijuana earlier this year, but patients won’t be able to legally buy medical marijuana for another year or longer.
“I am proud of Ohioans for standing up and voting for these citizen led initiatives to fully decriminalize marijuana up to 200 grams, and standing up for the patients in each of the municipalities,” Schmitt Jr. told High Times. “With HB523 taking too long to go in effect, patients in these areas will have protection from the law within five days.”
Going against the voice of its voters, Newark officials have said they will ignore the passing of the decriminalization measure and instead will charge all offenses for possessing 200 grams or less using Ohio state law.
“The passage of this initiative really isn’t going to change anything in the manner of which we prosecute possession of marijuana,” said Newark Law Director Doug Sassen. “It’s just an open that’s available if we choose to pursue it and we’re going to choose not to pursue it.”
High Times reports that Cleveland and several more Ohio cities are expected to begin investigating decriminalization ordinances before too long.
“If they won’t change the laws, we will—city-by-city, village-by-village—until we take our human rights back to this amazing medicinal plant,” Schmitt said.
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