According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Columbus City Council announced that they would be changing the penalties associated with marijuana possession in the city! The new legislation would make the fine for up to 100 grams a $10 fine, while the fine for 100-200 grams would be $25 - less than the cost of an expired parking meter penalty. With passage of this legislation, possession of over 200 grams would still be charged as a felony.
Council spokeswoman Lee Cole stated that the council will be voting on the ordinance after a scheduled public hearing on the reduced penalties. The public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, July 18th at 5:30 pm in council chambers at city hall on 90 W. Broad Street. You can also give feedback in writing by taking a survey at www.columbus.gov/council/marijuanareform or sending email messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The final vote could happen as early as the council's next meeting Monday, July 22.
The Columbus City Council's push for marijuana reform comes on the heels of Cincinnati's council last month voting to get rid of fines for up to 100 grams - or about 3.5 ounces. Currently, Ohio law charges a $150 fine for less than 100 grams and a $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail for between 100-200 grams.
According to the proposed ordinance language in Columbus, the penalties would not be applicable to:
Any person who obtained the marijuana pursuant to a lawful prescription issued by a licensed health professional authorized to prescribe drugs.
This would mean that patients purchasing from a licensed Ohio medical marijuana dispensary would be protected, not only under Columbus law, but also Ohio law.
Additionally, the new ordinance would "not constitute a criminal record and need not be reported by the person so arrested or convicted in response to any inquiries about the persona'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."
Ultimately, this proposed ordinance from the Columbus City Council reveals a shift in public official's attitudes towards cannabis. For the first time, cannabis users are having the stigma of criminalization and the veil of criminality lifted as cities, states, and even the country moves toward effective cannabis reform. While there is still more work to be done, this is an optimistic step in the right direction.
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