With so many states voting on marijuana legalization on Election Day, some smaller cannabis initiatives that were on ballots almost went unnoticed. While nine states were voting to legalize medical or recreational pot on Tuesday, Ohio made some major moves for marijuana, too, when residents in several communities voted to decriminalize possession charges.
Now people caught with less than 200 grams of marijuana in the Ohioan cities of Bellaire, Logan, Newark and Roseville will no long face fines or jail time for being in possession of marijuana. The measure was also on the ballot in Byesville, but was rejected by voters.
Possessing up to 100 grams of marijuana has been considered a misdemeanor in Ohio since the 1970s. Although the offense didn’t result in arrests, persons caught with weed were forced to pay a fine and would automatically have their driver’s licenses suspended. Charges for possession of more than 100 grams resulted in 30-day jail sentences and fines up to $250.
Organizations responsible for the ballot measures passed in the four cities told local media that the decriminalization efforts would free up law enforcement resources for more important matters like the heroin and opioid problem within the state. Opioids were the cause of death for more than 28,000 people living in Ohio, according to a 2014 Center for Disease Control report.
Meanwhile, Sensible Bellaire, the group behind Bellaire’s marijuana decriminalization measure, told High Times that the initiative will help get marijuana in the hands of patients who have been waiting for HB523, the state’s medical marijuana law that was passed in May but has yet to take effect in the state.
The new ordinances in the four Ohio cities come just one year after Toledo passed a similar measure, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and giving people in possession of fewer than 200 grams of marijuana citations without the chances of fines or arrests.
Columbus and several other cities in Ohio are expected to consider changing marijuana’s misdemeanor laws and charges following Bellaire, Logan, Newark and Roseville’s passing of decriminalization initiatives.