Columbus looks to lead cannabis reform in Ohio at the municipal level! According to WOSU, Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin wants to reduce penalties for cannabis possession, and he will be taking the first steps at a public hearing in the Council chambers.
While Hardin cannot completely decriminalize marijuana due to constraints by state law, he does has several proposals in mind for Columbus cannabis reform:
Lowering penalties for cannabis-related crimes and ensuring those criminal records are sealed or expunged so people can remain employable; and
Push the state drug sentencing reform, backed by City Attorney Zach Klein and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, which would get rid of mandatory sentencing for drug possession cases except for major drug offenders.
According to Hardin, the most likely scenario is passing an ordinance to lower penalties. While there have been no official proposals submitted, Hardin told WOSU last year that he wanted the starting point for the conversation to be making the possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana a minor misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $25.
Currently, Columbus law enforcement does cite for penalties and low-level possession - misdemeanors. State law classifies the possession of between 100 and 200 grams of marijuana as a fourth-degree misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $250 and up to 30 days in jail. Possession of less than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, is a minor misdemeanor with a penalty of $150.
These proposals do have some limits: The city is unable to move to reduce a felony to a misdeameanor, and the realm in which the reform can take place effects only the "penalty phase."
So, while this is a welcome step in the right direction, there will need to be further reforms at the state and federal level for more consequential changes to take place. Luckily, multiple pieces of federal legislation aimed at reforming cannabis laws accross the country are currently taking place! We will have an upcoming article discussing the different pieces of optimistic legislation gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.
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