Cleveland’s city council just decriminalized weed.
On Monday, the Cleveland City Council voted 15-2 to stop all prosecution for low-level pot offenses, namely possession of small amounts for personal use. Of course, “small amounts” is relative here, as the city set the maximum amount at 200 grams, or a whopping 7 ounces.
“Across the United States, people are re-examining how we deal with marijuana,” council member Blaine Griffin, who also sponsored the ordinance, said during Monday’s meeting. “Let this be a bold first step in how we look at 21st century policing.”
The ordinance, which still needs to be signed into law by Mayor Frank Jackson, removes all fines and jail time for possession under the city’s new limit. Additionally, misdemeanor pot convictions will no longer appear on an individual’s criminal record, and those with low-level pot offenses will no longer have to report their convictions on employment or license applications.
“One of the things that really drives me to push this legislation is we don’t want people saddled with these crimes, when we see a tremendous industry starting to form around marijuana,” Griffin said. Ohio sold $60 million worth of medical cannabis in 2019, the first year of the state’s legal medical marijuana sales.
But not everyone on the council was thrilled that people can now walk around Cleveland’s streets with damn near a half-pound of weed.
“Are we sending the wrong message that it’s OK to do something illegal because, while it’s still illegal now, there will be no penalties for it?” councilmember Brian Kazy asked at the meeting. “I think that we should be very careful in what we’re saying.”
Despite the ordinance, anyone in Cleveland can still face stiff penalties, such as fines or even jail time, for other cannabis-related offenses. For instance, driving under the influence of weed remains a no-no, and home cultivation or selling weed — regardless of the amount — are still very much prosecutable crimes.
Cleveland isn’t alone in its latest pro-pot move, either. Other major cities in Ohio, such as Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo have passed similar ordinances that also effectively decriminalized weed possession. In 2016, Ohio legalized medical marijuana, but smokable flower is still not allowed.