Athens voters overwhelmingly pass ordinance to depenalize misdemeanor marijuana offenses


ATHENS, OH (WCMH) — An ordinance depenalizing misdemeanor marijuana offenses passed with overwhelming support on Tuesday.

The Athens Cannabis Ordinance (TACO) passed with a 77 percent majority vote.

The ordinance does not decriminalize or legalize marijuana. It does removes fines and court costs for misdemeanor marijuana offenses.Click here to read the entire ordinance. 

According to the proposed ordinance language, possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana or 10 grams of has will result in no fines or court costs. The same goes for cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana, gifts of up to 20 grams, as well as possession and sale of paraphernalia.

Caleb Brown, treasurer for the TACO committee, said the ordinance is a part of a broader movement.

“Ultimately, the goal is if enough communities around the state make these kinds of changes at the state level and ultimately at the federal level, we can realize that cannabis prohibition is wrong,” he said.

Athens city law director Lisa Eliason said she thinks it could give Ohio University students a false sense of security.

“Many students will come in thinking, ‘I can get rid of this. I can take care of this today. I’ll just plead guilty to it and pay no fine and have no court costs.’ But, down the road somebody checking their criminal record through the municipal court will see a conviction for drug abuse,” said Eliason.

She said she doesn’t think it will pose any other problems in the city.

“I don’t think the police will change the way they do business,” said Eliason. “I think that you probably read that we had very few cases cited under the city code last year.”

Brown said TACO is based off a similar ordinance from Toledo and a few other cities. He said the overwhelming win shows the importance of citizen petitions.

“Making an ordinance like this by petition is a fantastic way to show everyone that we can make ordinances like this happen and we can make ordinances by petition when our elected representatives are not doing what we want,” said Brown.

The Athens County Board of Elections said the ordinance will be certified on the 21st. It will then go into effect five days later.

The Ohio University Police Department sent NBC4 this statement, stating the ordinance would not take effect on university property.

“We are reviewing the city’s new ordinance, but unless and until we receive legal guidance otherwise, we will continue to cite under state law for violations on state property.”

– Lt. Tim Ryan

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