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Norwood's new marijuana ordinance creates a hazy situation for police

Posted at 10:48 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 01:10:29-05

NORWOOD, Ohio -- Although marijuana legalization advocates celebrated the overwhelming Tuesday evening passage of a new city ordinance, smoking and possessing the substance in Norwood are still crimes.

They're just crimes for which certain low-level offenders -- those possessing fewer than 200 grams -- can no longer be jailed or fined. 

"We will still take your marijuana," Lt. Ron Murphy said. 

Murphy said he sees the writing on the wall when it comes to legalizing the substance. It seems inevitable. However, the latest intermediate step between criminalization and legalization presents a challenge for the Norwood Police Department.

Do they enforce state and federal law, under which possession of marijuana remains thoroughly illegal and can be punished with jail time, or do they yield to Norwood law?

"We swore an oath to uphold the state law," he said. "We will have to see, when we sit down with the city administration and our law department and the police department to see where we're going to go from here."

For Amy Wolfinbarger, however, the passage is an unequivocal victory she hopes will lead to more in the future. Through Sensible Norwood, a small, local marijuana advocacy organization, she campaigned for Issue 18 as an initial step in a legalization journey she, like Murphy, saw as somewhat predetermined.

If it's going to happen no matter what, her goal is to make it happen as reasonably and sanely as possible, she said Wednesday.

"I think that this will help people see that legalization's not going to be the end of the world, and all the worst things that you imagined are not going to come true," she said. "I think this will be a nice way to test that."

As Murphy and his colleagues work to decide the best course of action ahead, he said he wants marijuana users to known that a reduction in penalties is different from an all-clear. 

"We don't want people to think that Norwood is now welcome to come and use your marijuana," he said,