Cleveland Councilman wants to eliminate fines and penalties for small amounts of marijuana

CLEVELAND -- Cleveland City Council will consider a proposal to eliminate fines and penalties for having small amounts of marijuana.

The proposed ordinance, introduced Wednesday by Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin, would change laws for possessing, growing and giving away certain amounts of marijuana.

It calls for eliminating all fines, penalties and drug treatment requirements for having less than 200 grams of marijuana.

It would also get rid of penalties for giving someone 20 grams or less of the drug as a gift, except when near a school or a child.

Currently, people possessing between 100 and 200 grams of marijuana can face up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, but they are rarely sent to jail. People possessing less than 100 grams of the drug are guilty of a minor misdemeanor and can face a $150 fine.

Griffin said he made the proposal to reduce judicial bias against minorities and to lessen the social costs of minor marijuana offenses, including issues finding jobs or receiving scholarships.

“I think this is the modern-day prohibition. The war on drugs to keep marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug hasn't worked. So therefore, it's time for us to reexamine our laws and look at, are we actually out of the loop with what we should be doing around marijuana penalties," Griffin said.

Several other Ohio cities, including Columbus and Cincinnati, have already passes similar legislation.

Dr. Leslie Koblentz spent seven years as a psychiatrist in the Cuyahoga County Jail before joining the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County as Chief Clinical Officer in 2018.

“We have to make priorities,” Dr. Koblentz said. “If you've read about the jails, been in the jails, they are very, very overcrowded. The jail's not the place for drug treatment. The jail really is not the place for mental healthcare.”

While the ADAMHS Board in no way condones the use of substances of abuse, Dr. Koblentz said she supports decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. She said the drug is still hazardous, with studies showing it is a gateway to other drug use and can negatively affect the brain – but treatment and education are more beneficial than criminal penalties.

“We need education, we need drug treatment, we need a sustained program that will help the person,” Dr. Koblentz said.

The proposed Cleveland ordinance will be debated in committee before going to full council for a vote.

 

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