It is hard to imagine that only a few months ago our great nation watched us Ohioans vote on Issue 3, the legalization of marijuana. As most of us remember, Issue 3 got crushed at the polls. The margin between the yay and nay votes was over 900,000. That was a true bummer to those hoping to smoke their marijuana without Johnny Law coming after them. This was especially tough for those ten rich investors that wanted all the marijuana to themselves in order to sell it at a higher price. That is right Nick Lachey, marijuana users have not forgotten about you and your rich buddies. I for one did enjoy their light hearted political advertisements about why we need to legalize marijuana.
During this brouhaha of whether Ohio should legalize marijuana or not, the City of Toledo took on its own initiative to decriminalize marijuana. Back in September 2015, Toledo put on the local ballot Issue 1: The Sensible Marijuana Ordinance. The Sensible Marijuana Ordinance decriminalized marijuana by decreasing the penalties of marijuana violations. The decreased penalties also applied to felonies, described by state law. The focus was to make the penalties the absolute minimum while keeping marijuana technically illegal in order to comply with state law.
The Sensible Marijuana Ordinance did the following:
1) Removed all jail time and fines for marijuana violations;
2) Prevented driver license suspensions due to marijuana violations;
3) Forbids any marijuana violation from being reported to any professional licensing board or agency;
4) Prevented law enforcement agencies from reporting marijuana violations to any authority above the city attorney;
5) Prohibited civil or criminal asset forfeiture as a consequence of any marijuana related violation.
As of today, local news agencies are reporting that individuals that have been charged with marijuana violations after the implementation of The Sensible Marijuana Ordinance, have faced no jail time and no fines from the court.
A major issue that is before the court right now as it relates to The Sensible Marijuana Ordinance is the provision about felonies. Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, and Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates filed a lawsuit against the city to stop it from enacting the sections of The Sensible Marijuana Ordinance as it related to felonies. The above mentioned three amigos argued that removing certain penalties for crimes regarding more than 200 grams of marijuana is outside of the City of Toledo’s authority. Both the City of Toledo and the three amigos are still waiting on the court’s answer.
It is interesting to note that the City of Dayton has very similar city ordinances when it comes to decriminalizing marijuana. Albeit that Dayton did not go as far as Toledo did for lessening marijuana penalties, but the Gem City has taken the issue seriously.
Under City of Dayton Ordinance 139.02 (Trafficking in Marijuana), an offender only faces a minor misdemeanor and no driver license suspension if the marijuana in question is 20 grams or less. That is a max fine of $150 and no jail time.
Under City of Dayton Ordinance 139.03 (Drug Abuse) an offender that possess 100 grams or less of marijuana will only face a minor misdemeanor. Max fine of $150 fine, no jail time, and no driver license suspension. In addition, the ordinance goes on to state that an arrest or conviction for a minor misdemeanor violation does not constitute a criminal record and need not be reported by the person so arrested or convicted in response to any inquiries about the person’s criminal record, including any inquiries contained in any application for employment, license, or other right or privilege, or made in connection with the person’s appearance as a witness.
Based on how cities across Ohio are handling marijuana violations, it seems it will be only a matter of time until marijuana is legal or decriminalized to a point that any minor marijuana offense will not bring any significant penalty.