Cincinnati's marijuana decriminalization creates enforcement, expungement questions

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – A local defense attorney says Cincinnati’s new marijuana law creates more questions than answers.

In 30 days, it will be legal to possess up to 100 grams of marijuana in city limits but that could depend on which police agency stops you. Jeff Pastor, one of the five council members who voted for decriminalization, says the decriminalization vote is a victory.

“I am extremely excited, overjoyed that this has passed. It’s a step in the right direction,” said Pastor.

But defense attorney Jay Clark isn’t as enthused.

“I think it’s going to create more problems than it will solve. I don’t know what the benefit of the change is,” said Clark.

Clark points out, before Wednesday’s vote, a marijuana ticket in Cincinnati was a minor misdemeanor with a penalty of about $150.

“I think it’s classist and elitist to say it’s just $150 when roughly 50 percent of Americans don’t have $400 saved in their account,” said Pastor.

Clark says the decriminalization also creates issues with law enforcement. While the Cincinnati Police Department may not make minor marijuana citations, state troopers and Hamilton County deputies still have to follow state law, which says any marijuana is illegal.

“Now it gets into an issue of the person being treated differently for enforcement issues by the luck of who happened to be the enforcing agency,” said Clark.

The city of Cincinnati released the following statement to address those concerns:

The ordinance passed today will go into effect in 30 days. Over the next few weeks the Cincinnati Police Department will work with the Law Department on the development of a set of policies and procedures for handling matters related to the ordinance.
Pastor acknowledges the city and state law discrepancy, but he says that’s where responsibility comes in.

“We’re asking people to be responsible, respectful and to not consume in public and to certainly not operate any motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana or alcohol,” said Pastor.

Some critics of the new law say it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t address expungements. But lawyers and council point out since 2018, marijuana tickets have been eligible for expungement and there are several expungement clinics held every year.

Local 12 also reached out to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to get his take. His office says they’re declining comment until after David Mann’s marijuana ordinance is voted on.

If passed, Mann’s ordinance would supersede the ordinance passed Wednesday. Mann’s ordinance adds an age restriction of 18 years old and lowers the legal limit from 100 grams to 28 grams.


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