Marijuana decriminalization debate returns to Cincinnati City Hall

Marijuana decriminalization debate returns to Cincinnati City Hall
Source: FOX19 NOW/file

CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - A debate over marijuana decriminalization returns to Cincinnati City Hall this week.

The majority of council members have said they supported legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

It’s just unclear which of two plans will be adopted, something Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman predicts will happen this week.

Both were discussed at Council’s Law & Public Safety Committee Meeting Monday morning and go to a full council vote at their meeting Wednesday at 10 a.m.

One proposal, from Councilman David Mann, would permit up to one ounce, or 28 grams, by those 21 and older. It also would ban public use.

“Almost all 10 states limit possession to one ounce and to persons 21 years or older. In addition, public use is illegal,” Mann recently wrote in an email to City Council.

A second plan, from Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and Councilman Jeff Pastor, would decriminalize up to 100 grams.

They say the one on the books now 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.

He is calling for council to meet with police and prosecutors to determine a minimal amount to decriminalize.

But Smitherman and Pastor are staunchly standing by their proposal for up to 100 grams.

“Thirty-two of our states have moved to medical marijuana. What I don’t want to have happen is to have the state of Ohio adopt the legalization of marijuana - which is not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about the decriminalization of it,” Smitherman said.

Mann’s proposal still would create criminal records and fines for marijuana use and possession, Smitherman notes.

Smitherman added from January 2004 to May of 2019 there were 16,817 charges - which he called alarming.

“When you understand that so many citizens are getting these types of charges as we talk about their ability to get a job after a charge like this,” he said.

If council fails to decriminalize 100 grams of marijuana, he has vowed to immediately begin circulation of a petition to get it on the fall ballot.

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