Cleveland City Council Considering Cutting Consequences for Cannabis

The ordinance aims to reduce prison sentences for minor drug offenses.
Cleveland City Council Considering Cutting Consequences for Cannabis

The city council in Cleveland, Ohio will consider an ordinance that would eliminate the penalties for possessing moderate amounts of cannabis. The proposal was introduced on Wednesday by Councilman Blaine Griffin of Ward 6.

Under Griffin’s proposal, all fines, penalties, and drug treatment requirements for possessing less than 200 grams (just over 7 ounces) of marijuana would be eliminated. The ordinance would also eliminate all penalties for giving away up to 20 grams of cannabis except when in the close proximity of a school or child.

Griffin told reporters that he introduced the measure to reduce the racial bias prevalent in the enforcement of drug laws and to reduce the collateral effects of convictions for minor drug offenses, such as disqualification for housing or educational benefits.

“I think this is the modern-day prohibition. The war on drugs to keep marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug hasn’t worked,” said Griffin. “So therefore, it’s time for us to reexamine our laws and look at, are we actually out of the loop with what we should be doing around marijuana penalties.”

Dr. Leslie Koblentz, who was a psychiatrist in the Cuyahoga County Jail for seven years before she joined the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County as the Chief Clinical Officer last year, said that she supports the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis.

“We have to make priorities,” Koblentz said. “If you’ve read about the jails, been in the jails, they are very, very overcrowded. The jail’s not the place for drug treatment. The jail really is not the place for mental healthcare.”

She added that while there are risks associated with the use of cannabis, knowledge and drug rehabilitation are more effective than incarceration.

“We need education, we need drug treatment, we need a sustained program that will help the person,” said Koblentz.

Cleveland Following Trend in Ohio

If the ordinance passes, Cleveland would not be the first major city in Ohio to cut the consequences of possessing small amounts of marijuana. Cincinnati did so in June, and earlier this week city leaders in Columbus followed suit.

Under the ordinance approved by Columbus City Council on Monday, possession of up to 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of marijuana will be subject to a fine of up to $10. Those caught possessing between 100 and 200 grams of cannabis will face a fine of up to $25. Possession of more than 200 grams is still a felony.

The fine for possession of marijuana paraphernalia was also reduced to $10. The ordinance also increases funding to help those with previous convictions for marijuana possession offenses have their criminal records sealed.

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