CINCINNATI — “There will be a vote on the marijuana legislation on Wednesday,” said Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman during a council committee meeting Monday morning. Up to four proposals are expected to be considered by the full council.
Smitherman and Councilman Jeff Pastor introduced their proposed ordinance to decriminalize the possession of marijuana before the three-member Law and Public Safety Committee nearly one month ago. Since then, Councilman David Mann introduced his own ordinance.
One of the issues at hand: what is a small amount of marijuana?
The proposal brought by Smitherman and Pastor would eliminate jail and fines for anyone found possessing 100 grams or less of marijuana in Cincinnati. The original ordinance decriminalized up to 200 grams of marijuana.
Mann then introduced another ordinance which would lower the amount to 28.3 grams — about an ounce — and prevent possession in public places. The committee Monday heard two versions of the Mann ordinance: one with a set age limit of 18, and another with an age limit of 21. Both versions failed in committee but can be brought before the full council if a committee member asks the mayor to add the proposed ordinances to the council’s full agenda.
Smitherman said decriminalizing smaller amounts of marijuana would address issues like African Americans being disproportionately impacted by existing marijuana laws.
The vice mayor said more than 16,000 marijuana-related charges have been filed under the city’s ordinance between January 2004 and May 2019. He said about 86% of the people charged were African American and nearly 90% were male.
Smitherman argues the charges can have a long-lasting impact on a person's ability to get a job.
“This is really alarming when you understand that so many citizens are getting these types of charges,” he said, “as we talk about their ability to get a job after a charge like this. Very, very significant.”
The Cincinnati City Council meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall. A citizen’s speaking session begins at 9:30 a.m.