No decision made to decriminalize marijuana in city limits

Updated: May. 22, 2019 at 4:25 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - No final decision has been made to decriminalize recreational marijuana use in city limits. Council will meet again on Friday in order to discuss and take action on the ordinance.

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The majority of council said last week when the issue was discussed at one of their meetings they supported legalization of marijuana. There’s a few plans they are considering. Councilman David Mann’s plan, unveiled Monday, would permit up to one ounce, or 28 grams, by those 21 and older. It also would ban public use.

“I think there’s a lot of interest in being thoughtful as we go forward. In having a smaller, minimum quantity. Have some sort of minimum age 18 or 21. Public use would be prohibited, just like we do with alcohol. It seems to me those would be common sense, very smart changes. One way or another, that’ll come to a vote next week," Mann said.

A motion last week from Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and Councilman Jeff Pastor has two options to decriminalizes marijuana: one for up to 200 grams, another that decriminalizes up to 100 grams.

Smitherman and Pastor said Tuesday they are moving forward with the option for up to 100 grams.

That is the option Police Chief Eliot Isaac has said he preferred, though he made it clear at a recent City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting he is not comfortable with any of it being decriminalized.

Smitherman and Pastor’s motion contrasts the current law on the books, one they say is too harsh.

Violators are subject to $25 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters supports decriminalizing marijuana but believes 100 grams to too much, according to a letter he wrote Mann on Friday.

“I have read with great interest the proposal to decriminalize marijuana under the 100 or 200 gram levels,” Deters’ letter states. "As you probably know, I have supported the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in the past. However, I feel these levels of weight are too high in term of personal use. It may affect our presumption of Unlawful Possession and Trafficking in Drugs.

“I would urge council to meet with police and prosecutors to determine a minimal amount of decriminalize.”

Both Smitherman and Pastor said they stand by their proposal for up to 100 grams.

Mann’s plan, they note, would still create criminal records and fines for marijuana use and possession, which the vice mayor opposes.

“To me, it’s sensible," Pastor told FOX19 NOW Tuesday. “As a limited government guy who respects the laws, this to me seem like a no-brainer. I just don’t understand why folks can’t see this was a dumb law to begin with and why folks who just want to smoke small amounts shouldn’t be allowed to. It just reeks of privilege.”

Smitherman said he plans to launch a petition drive to take the issue to voters if council doesn’t pass it.

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