The Cincinnati City Council just voted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana within city limits. The move comes as many leaders in the city have been expressing concern over the racially disparate enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws.
New Weed Rules in Cincinnati
Earlier today, the Cincinnati City Council approved the decriminalization ordinance. Specifically, the new rule passed with a 5-3 vote.
Now that it’s cleared the City Council, the initiative is slated to go into full effect in 30 days.
When it does, law enforcement in the city is supposed to stop going after anybody possessing up to 100 grams of marijuana.
Compromising to Pass the Initiative
According to local news source WLWT5, the decriminalization initiative passed after some back and forth between city officials.
Specifically, City Council members reportedly compromised on various aspects of the new rules.
For example, some council members wanted to remove all restrictions on possessing and smoking cannabis anywhere in the city. But others were opposed to that much freedom, especially when it comes to public consumption.
Similarly, some council members wanted to set an age restriction at 21 years old. Meanwhile, others wanted to lower it to 18 years old.
And there was also some back and forth on the amount of weed that would be covered by the new rule. Specifically, some officials wanted to set the limit as high as 200 grams of weed. But others pushed for limiting decriminalization to 100 grams.
In the end, the initiative fell somewhere in between. Specifically, the new rules will reportedly apply to adults 21 years and older. Similarly, the final initiative includes a ban on consuming weed in public. And the limit of weed people allowed to possess in the city has been set at 100 grams.
Responding to the War on Drugs
While the new ordinance does not legalize marijuana, it could serve as a big step toward loosening prohibition laws in the city.
And for many in the city, including some of the council people in favor of the initiative, this could be a big step forward in addressing the social harms of prohibition laws.
As per local news source WLWT5, a recent review of arrest stats in Cincinnati found huge disparities along racial lines. Specifically, the review looked at arrest trends from January 2004 through May 2019.
Here are some of the trends this review found:
- Between those years, there were 16,817 cannabis-related arrests in Cincinnati.
- Roughly eight in ten weed-related arrests was a black man.
- More specifically, 86.2% of all cannabis-related arrests in Cincinnati were black people.
For many of the city officials involved with getting the new initiative passed, the goal of decriminalization is to reduce these trends.
“These are alarming numbers when we start talking about creating a permanent underclass. If you cannot get a j-o-b,” said Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman.
He also told local media that decriminalization is necessary because racially disparate enforcement is occurring “while Wall Street and the suits are making billions of dollars off marijuana.”
Other city officials voiced similar sentiments. For example, Councilman Jeff Pastor described prohibition laws as deeply problematic.
“Sometimes we have to change laws because they’re unfair,” he said. “They’re biased, they’re obsolete.”