Columbus City Council set to vote on reducing marijuana penalties


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus city council is considering legislation that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession.

The proposed ordinance would reduce the fine if caught with marijuana.

A person caught with 100 grams or less would receive a $10 fine and a person caught with 200 grams would be pay $25.

“We are not encouraging drug use of any kind. We are just saying that the criminal justice system should be blind to how enforced,” said Council President, Shannon Hardin.

Hardin says decriminalizing marijuana in Columbus will start the process of ending racial disparities in the city.

“We know that young African Americans are four times more likely to be cited for marijuana possession than their counterparts when we know that there is equal usage,” Hardin says.

According to the city of Columbus in 2016, Franklin County Municipal Court reported more than 8,500 cases related to drugs and paraphernalia possessions.

4,600 of those cases were brought by the Columbus division of police, 1,334 of which were for marijuana.

62 percent of the defendants were listed as African American males.

Chad Thompson, with the Sensible Movement Coalition, says if the council’s goal is to end racial disparities, placing a low fine on marijuana procession is not the way to do it.

“They will think, ‘Oh it’s a small fine.’ They won’t even walk into court they will just ignore it. And then in Ohio a bench warrant can be issued and they will go to jail,” says Thompson.

Instead Thompson suggests the city follow suit of 12 other cities across Ohio, including Dayton, Cincinnati and Toledo by enforcing a ‘no fine, no jail time’ ordinance.

“In Pittsburgh they did a small fine and after that the charges actually rose and they documented the racial disparities got worse,” said Thompson.

Council will vote on this ordinance on Monday.

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