CINCINNATI — Cincinnati City council voted Wednesday to decriminalize the possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana.
The ordinance allows people within the City of Cincinnati to freely possess 100 grams with no age limit. Anyone found with 100 grams or less on their person will not be fined and will not be charged with a crime.
But that doesn’t mean anyone can just spark a joint in the middle of Fountain Square. So what does this ordinance mean for Cincinnati, and what changes will it actually bring?
So, is marijuana legal in Cincinnati now?
No. It’s important to note that decriminalization is not the same as legalization.
Decriminalization means possession of 100 grams or less will not result in any fines or citations. But it is not categorized as a fully legal substance in any regard.
Amounts of 100 grams and below are also the only quantities that have been decriminalized. Anyone in possession of 101-200 grams will be fined and cited, per the original city marijuana ordinances.
Where does this go into effect?
This ordinance was passed by the City of Cincinnati. It only affects areas within the city limits of Cincinnati.
Any township or municipality outside the City of Cincinnati will have its own marijuana-related laws by which people must abide.
See the below map for reference:
How much is 100 grams?
One ounce of marijuana (or any other dry good) is approximately 28 grams.
Mathematically, this totals out to around 3.5 ounces in 100 grams. For a visual example, see the reference photo provided by Cincinnati Police:
So does this mean I can smoke anywhere?
No. No, it does not. Much like alcohol, having the marijuana on your person won’t necessarily invoke any criminal charges, but imbibing it in public areas certainly will.
What is the age limit?
There isn’t one. City Council’s new ordinance does not specify protection for specific ages, nor does it set an age limit.
What happens if I’m caught with marijuana?
As of now, the ordinance itself doesn’t spell out police procedure.
Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders told WCPO that "we are still evaluating the ordinance at this point."
"Over the next few weeks the Cincinnati Police Department will work with the Law Department on the development of a set of policies and procedures for handling matters related to the ordinance," said Casey Weldon, director of communication with the City of Cincinnati.
However, the ordinance does state that “arrest or conviction for a minor misdemeanor violation of this section does not constitute a criminal record and need not be reported by the person so arrested or convicted in response to any inquiries contained in any application for employment, license, or other right or privilege, or made in connection with the person’s appearance as a witness.”
The ordinance also states that “all court costs shall be $0.00 for violations of this section herein.”
Will they confiscate my marijuana if I’m caught?
WCPO has reached out to Cincinnati police for clarification on this.
However, it may be safe to say that yes, any officer who discovers marijuana on a person will likely be free to confiscate it, since it is still an illegal substance.
What about paraphernalia?
Paraphernalia itself is not protected under this ordinance. Possession of paraphernalia will still incur criminal charges and fines.
"This new ordinance would not change other laws related to drug paraphernalia," Lt. Saunders told WCPO.
What does it mean for people convicted or previously charged with possession under 100 grams?
This is a complicated question, and one that City Council has not addressed in a legal capacity. Debate around this issue arose during City Council meetings, but no concrete resolution was determined.
Marijuana possession up to 100 grams has been a misdemeanor offense in the entire state of Ohio since 1975, with a maximum fine of $150. However, it is still a crime that goes on a person’s criminal record, unlike with the current Cincinnati ordinance.
Tamaya Dennard stated this issue is one of the reasons she voted against the ordinance.
"Decriminalization and expungement have to go hand-in-hand," Dennard said. "Expungement can't be an afterthought, because of the disproportionate number of black people this has impacted."
Whether people in Cincinnati with prior possession offenses up to 100 grams would be exonerated and have their records expunged is still a question that, so far, has no answer.
When will the ordinance go into effect?
Although it was passed Wednesday, it won’t officially go into effect until 30 days after its passage.