While Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine attempts to sabotage a measure completely decriminalizing marijuana possession in the city of Toledo, local prosecutors appear to be doing their best to maintain the integrity of the ordinance.
A recent report from the Toledo Blade suggests that ever since voters approved a measure last September that eliminates the criminal penalties associated with misdemeanor and felony pot possession, only one person has been convicted of the offense—an 18-year-old woman by the name of Mariah Smith, who received a sentence of “no fines and no jail time.”
A total of 21 defendants have been arrested for marijuana possession since the ordinance went into effect last year. All, with the exception of Smith, are currently awaiting trial, or for their charges to be reduced to disorderly conduct, according to the report.
Toledo’s decriminalization measure, which was approved by 70 percent of the voters in 2015, is perhaps one of the best ordinances of its kind in the entire nation. Not only does the law decriminalize the possession of marijuana in small amounts, but it also eliminates all of the criminal penalties and fines associated with felony possession and trafficking.
To sweeten the deal, the law also comes with a “gag rule” that prohibits Toledo police from referring marijuana violations to the state, which still considers these types of actions a criminal offense.
Basically, in Toledo, marijuana possession in any amount is considered a minor misdemeanor, whereby those convicted “shall not be fined and no incarceration, probation, not any other punitive or rehabilitative measure shall be imposed.”
After the ordinance was approved, Attorney General DeWine filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the portion of the ordinance that allows felony pot possession (over 200 grams) and trafficking to go unpunished. However, the lawsuit did not offer any arguments into the city’s desire to abolish fines and jail sentences for those caught in possession of marijuana in amounts less than 200 grams.
DeWine’s lawsuit claims the City of Toledo has no authority to reduce the penalties for marijuana offenses that are still considered felonies in the eyes of the state. He is also contesting the “gag rule,” because he wants Toledo police to have the option of feeding state law enforcement information regarding potential violations to the state’s drug laws.
In December, a Lucas County Common Pleas Judge was left shaking his head at the debate surrounding the city’s decriminalization ordinance. Citing a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court, which finds “a statute is not a criminal statute unless penalty is provided for its violation,” the judge argued that a law could not be considered a law without some sort of penance for breaking it.
However, a city briefing suggests there are still penalties covering felony marijuana possession in Toledo, including the seizure of contraband and a smear on a defendant’s record. The defense went on to say that the people of Toledo have decided that the state’s definition of penalties, specifically fines and jail time, are no longer necessary for offenses pertaining to marijuana.
A judge must now decide the outcome of this debacle. As for now, Toledo police have been instructed to use their discretion when charging people with marijuana.
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