The Columbus City Council in Ohio has voted to reduce cannabis penalties within city limits.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, city council members unanimously approved new legislation that would limit the fine for possessing up to 200 grams of cannabis to a cost between $10 to $25. As reasoning for this decision, the city noted the unfair disparity that exists in communities of color. Originally, the fine for possession of was $250 and up to 30 days jail time. Additionally, possession of cannabis paraphernalia would only cost $10 as well. “In Columbus, we are going to treat marijuana enforcement fairly,” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin confirmed.
Those who spoke up at the meeting also pointed out that restructuring such a rule would allow the police to focus on bigger, more dangerous crimes. It would keep minor cannabis charges off of permanent records, so that minors who might make some bad mistakes don’t have to endure difficulty in finding jobs when they become of age. “While this is not going to change the whole world, it’s going to change someone’s world,” said Gregory Lee, a member of the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission who said he spoke at the meeting. The city’s Staff Attorney for Legal Aid, Patrick Higgins, is certain that this will help some people get a second chance. ““It’s really important that people, young people, who have been silly and been young and been engaged, that this is not prohibitive for them being in the workforce,” he said.
The new legislation will also allocate $130,000 in funding to a non-profit that will help people erase their past cannabis convictions and open up job opportunities.
Ohio may not be a leading state in the U.S. cannabis industry, but recent strides have been made. Cincinnati also took steps to decriminalize cannabis in June as well. Legal medical cannabis is now available in the state (having gone into effect in January of this year), and advocates are currently working on legalizing recreational cannabis as well.