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Cincinnati Repeals City Marijuana Possession Ordinance

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By "Radical" Russ Belville

Ohio is one of the thirteen states that has decriminalized possession of marijuana, meaning that possession of a personal amount is punishable only by a ticket and fine, with no criminal record and no jail time.

Of the thirteen decrim states, Ohio’s definition of “personal amount” is the greatest, with possession of 100 grams of cannabis or less (about 3.5 ounces) defined as a “minor misdemeanor” (no criminal record) – a $150 fine and six month to five years driver’s license suspension.

Except in the city of Cincinnati.  There the city had adopted Municipal Code Sec. 910-23 dealing with the possession of marijuana:

(A) No person shall knowingly obtain, possess, or use marijuana, in an amount less than two hundred grams.(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of possession of marijuana. Except as otherwise provided in this division, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of this section, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor of the first degree.

This means anyone caught in Cincinnati with 1-100 grams is treated as the state treats people caught with 101-200 grams.  That 4th degree misdemeanor does go on one’s criminal record and carries a fine of $250, six months to five years driver’s license suspension, and up to thirty days in jail.  If it is your second strike in Cincinnati, that 1st degree misdemeanor equals $1,000 fine, six months to five years driver’s license suspension, and six months in jail.

The activists at Prioritize Cincinnati did a fantastic job educating their lawmakers and the public about the unintended consequences of the city marijuana possession ordinance:

Prioritize Cincinnati seeks the repeal of Ordinance 910-23, which increased the penalty for marijuana possession. We want to repeal this law for three reasons:

-- 910-23 was enacted to reduce the number of handguns on the streets. Instead, handgun seizures have decreased by 25%.
-- By reducing the number of handguns on the streets, this law was supposed to reduce handgun crimes. Instead, handgun crimes have increased by 56%.
-- At a time when Cincinnati is struggling with a budget deficit, marijuana possession enforcement costs have increased by $181,000.

Note: All statistics on this site are based on information from the Cincinnati Police Department.

All that hard work paid off, because after contentious end-of-year debates, the city council repealed 910-23 as part of its new budget:

( It took until after midnight, but Cincinnati has a budget for next year – with no police or fire layoffs, no trash fee and no managed competition.

The budget uses $27 million in one-time sources, including borrowing from the workers compensation fund and emergency reserves. It also would pay an annual payment to Cincinnati Public Schools of $5 million from a Tax Increment Financing District fund rather than from the general fund. The money is part of a deal over construction of the stadiums.

It also cuts police overtime by $1.7 million, banks on $2 million from a tax amnesty program to be offered. Budget Director Lea Eriksen said the police would be “extremely challenged” by trying to come up with that size cut to overtime.It also would stop paying for crossing guards at parochial schools, repeal the city’s marijuana ordinance, borrow $2.4 million from a reserve account, borrow $1.9 million from an expected carryover next year and cut school nurses after June.

( By a 5-4 vote, City Council passed a $340 million operating budget that fills a projected $54 million deficit without a $20 trash fee, without managed competition and without significant layoffs of police, fire or any other workers.

The final vote came about 10:15 p.m. The plan had passed the budget committee by the same margin earlier in the night.

In two news stories on the subject the part about repealing the marijuana ordinance is mentioned in passing deep into the article.  There was no debate about it and no controversy in repealing it.  This all took place in meetings and votes held a week ago and there hasn’t been any outcry from outraged Cincinnatians in that time.

Sometimes prohibition just quietly fades away.


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