Columbus passes marijuana possession reform

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus City Council voted Monday to reduce marijuana fines.

The fine for getting caught with under 200 grams of marijuana is now about the price of a movie ticket or dinner meal.

Some said the change is about giving people a second chance.

“This won’t change the whole world, but it will change someone’s world,” said one Columbus resident at Monday’s City Council meeting.

It’s now a $10 fine for possessing less than 100 grams of marijuana and $25 for between 100 and 200 grams.

Jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana and paraphernalia is now a thing of the past.

“In Columbus, we are going to treat marijuana enforcement fairly,” said Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin.

Hardin said the second part of the reform package includes funding for the Legal Aid Society of Columbus to seal criminal records for those charged with possession in the past.

“Getting those opportunities sealed and out of the public eye can make the difference for that person and family and generations to come,” said Patrick Higgins, staff attorney for Legal Aid.

Those in favor of the new law said this will help people better their lives.

“It’s really important that people, young people, who have been silly and been young and been engaged, that this is not prohibitive for them being in the workforce,” he said.

Columbus Police Deputy Chief Kenneth Kuebler had been very vocal against the change.

He tweeted:

400 joints worth of marijuana would be a $25 fine. A 20-year-old adult holding a single beer – a. single. beer. – faces a $1000 fine and six months in jail. Only unserious, ideologically driven people can think this makes any sense.

Since this new law applies just within Columbus city limits, Hardin was asked what would happen if someone was pulled over by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Regardless of who is doing the enforcement, there will be this gray area,” Hardin said.

However, the drug is still illegal.

“We are not encouraging to use marijuana, but if you are, we want some parity in enforcement,” Hardin said.

Even though the ordinance was passed, it won’t go into effect for another 30 days.

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