Written by: Ishton W. Morton – June 15th, 2019
On Wednesday June 12th, 2019 in a 5 to 3 vote City Council voted to decriminalized marijuana up to 100 grams. The ordinance will be effective within 30 days. Needless to say this drew mixed responses from the community.
Accordingly, Council Members Greg Landsman, Jeff Pastor, Chris Seelbach, Smitherman and Wendell Young voted for Smitherman and Pastor’s ordinance.
Although the ordinance doesn’t include any provisions for expungement for those already convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman argued this is the second phase in the process.
The ordinance was proposed by Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman who is running for mayor and Jeff Pastor will allows people to freely possess 100 grams (3.53 ounces) with no age limit as long as they’re within the city boundaries. It bans marijuana use in public.
Notwithstanding, state laws against marijuana still exist, and almost 84% of those cited under the laws in Cincinnati over the past 15 years has been Black.
According to Smitherman; “When we look at the statistics, we can’t just say this is institutional racism. What we can say is that this is clearly a bias. I think everyone in this room would come to the conclusion that African-American men don’t smoke more marijuana than white men. But they are carrying the brunt of enforcement.”
Seemingly the argument continues to be over expungement, quantity, age limit and public usage.
Last week Councilmember David Mann said plans to seek a compromise on decriminalizing recreational marijuana in the City of Cincinnati which will contain major restrictions that will be in conflict with motions made by colleagues.
On Monday June 10th, 2019 prior to the vote on Wednesday June 12th, 2019 Mann announced that he would seek an ordinance permitting up to one ounce (approximately 28 grams) by persons 21 years or older while banning public use. He added these restrictions comply with limits in 10 other states where recreational use has been decriminalized.
Accordingly Mann’s motion is designed to allow far less than the 100 or 200 grams Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman and councilmember Jeff Pastor have proposed. Nonetheless, Smitherman and Pastor continued to pushed two motions through the three-member Law and Public Safety Committee with intent that the full council will put them to a vote on Wednesday.
Listening to council members as they made their cases either for or against the ordinance Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman made a compelling argument. Smitherman pointed out that First Respondents are using Narcan and Naloxone Hydrochloride, a life-saving medication that stop and reverse the effects of an opioid and heroin overdose. These people are allowed to walked away without any consequences.
Smitherman continued to point out the enormous disparity between marijuana users and opioid or heroin users.
Mann did not backed down. He said he got an opinion from the city solicitor that “confirms that public use on our streets and other outside public spaces otherwise will not be prohibited under the two ordinances before us.” The exception would be smoking in a public space where no smoking is permitted.
Smitherman added, that can have big implications, “Now someone applies to get a loan to go to college, or they apply for a job in the construction industry, and they’re choosing between someone who doesn’t have a drug conviction and someone who does,” he said. “We’re creating a permanent underclass.”
Pastor and Smitherman have pointed to statistics showing that 86% of the more than 16,000 citations issued by the city for marijuana possession between 2004 and 2019 went to black residents, most of them black men. The vast majority of the citations issued took place under a harsher city anti-marijuana ordinance that was repealed in 2010.
Vigorously, Smitherman said; “I would say that since we’ve been debating this each week a hundred African American men have been impacted by this law. We’ve got to stop it! We’ve got to stop it now!”
Admits the heated debate, Mann asked that his proposal to reduce the allowable amount to one ounce be held for a week to try to attract more support for it. when he finally said, after talking with lawmakers, it would seem that idea won’t come anywhere close to garnering five votes for passage.
Nonetheless, There continued to be honest differences regarding the amount, and about what’s age-appropriate and about the potential effect on criminal prosecutions.
Regardless to what side of bed you sleep or you get-up in the morning, Smitherman’s argument about the general over-criminalization of small amounts of marijuana won the day, a day that could be thought of as government by the ounce.