Wednesday afternoon, Cincinnati City Council is scheduled to vote to decriminalize marijuana possession by adults 21 years and over within city limits. The vote will take place at Cincinnati City Hall. Last week, a majority of council said they supported marijuana legalization, suggesting that the decriminalization vote will likely succeed. But council will have three decriminalization plans to consider and choose from: one that would follow other Ohio cities by limiting possession to one ounce, and two others that would set limits much higher while also eliminating fines, jail time and court costs for possession offenses.
Cincinnati is About to Become the Twelfth Ohio City to Decriminalize Cannabis
On Monday, Cincinnati Councilman David Mann unveiled a plan to permit adults 21 and over to personally possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The plan also bans public use. The one ounce limit and the ban on public cannabis consumption follows the 10 other Ohio cities that have already decriminalized simple possession. But Mann’s isn’t the only plan Cincinnati city leaders are considering.
Last week, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and Councilman Jeff Pastor put forward a motion that lays out two additional decriminalization plans. One would allow personal possession limits up to 200 grams of cannabis. The other would cap possession at 100 grams. None of the plans have so far specified specific rules for other forms of cannabis, such as oils, concentrates and edibles.
A major difference between Mann’s plan and the motion by Smitherman and Pastor has to do with criminal records. Mann’s plan would still create criminal records for marijuana use and possession. But the Vice Mayor opposes that plan. Instead, Smitherman and Pastor oppose any criminal records, fines or jail time for marijuana possession.
Currently, Cincinnati law fines violators $25, who are also subject to a 30 day jail sentence.
Cincinnati Policy Makers Weigh Different Decriminalization Limits
Of the three decriminalization options on the table, public officials seem to be favoring the plans with lower possession limits. Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, for example, said he preferred the 100 gram option. But at a recent City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting, Chief Isaac stated that he was not comfortable with any level of decriminalization.
County prosecutors, on the other hand, do support decriminalization. But they feel that 100 grams is still too high for personal possession. In a letter written to Councilman Mann, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stated that he believes the 100 gram level will impact prosecutors’ ability to determine whether someone is in possession of cannabis for personal use or for distribution and trafficking.
“I would urge council to meet with police and prosecutors to determine a minimal amount to decriminalize,” Deters wrote. But Smitherman and Pastor are standing by their proposal for a 100 gram limit.