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Marijuana Possession Proposals Get Votes This Week


Cincinnati Council is expected to finally take votes Wednesday morning on several ordinances to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.  
One measure to apply to less than 100 grams has been on the agenda for several weeks.  That plan would mean no fines or jail time for having that amount of marijuana.  It would also mean not having to disclose such an arrest on an employment application.

Council Member Jeff Pastor is a co-sponsor of that ordinance.

"There is no way that I'm advocating or encouraging high schoolers, junior high schoolers to smoke marijuana," Pastor said. "I am not encouraging the citizens of Cincinnati to take 100 grams of marijuana and drive to Kentucky or drive to North College Hill or whatever the case may be, I'm not encouraging the consumption of marijuana."

Council could also consider a modified version of that same ordinance, but with a ban on possession in public places.

From that modified ordinance: "...provided that any such use of marijuana did not occur in a public place, defined for purposes of this section as places generally open to the public, but not limited to, sidewalks, streets, parks, and places of public accommodation."

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said the country is heading to legalization of marijuana.  But he said these ordinances are about decriminalization for possession.

"What I don't want to continue to do is create this permanent underclass of citizens who are being criminalized with these misdemeanors, while Wall Street and the suits are making billions of dollars off marijuana," Smitherman said. "That just doesn't make sense to me. It is not practically fair."

Council could also vote on plans to reduce the possession without penalties to less than an ounce of marijuana with age limits of 18 or 21, but those proposals were rejected by the Law and Public Safety Committee Monday. A member can ask for a vote even if an item was rejected by committee.

Voters in Norwood passed a similar proposal last November concerning marijuana possession. However, police officers in that city are still issuing citations under state law.

Under Ohio law, possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, which can result in up to 30 days in jail and up to a $250 fine.  There's a citation and up to a $150 fine for possessing up to 100 grams.

Police Chief Eliot Isaac said last month he was more comfortable with the law applying to 100 grams or less of marijuana.  The first proposal was for up to 200 grams.

The police chief would have to decide whether the department would follow the ordinance.  In an email to Smitherman the chief said, "CPD will enforce all legally enforceable ordinances of the city of Cincinnati."

Another email from the city solicitor's office suggests that decision rests with city administration.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.