By Marty Dubecky, Digital Communications Manager
In possession of 200 grams of weed? You can still walk free if you are within the city limits of Forest Park, Ohio.
On Oct. 17, the city of Forest Park City Council passed an ordinance decriminalizing the possession of marijuana up to 200 grams. Possession of marijuana in Forest Park is now only a minor misdemeanor, meaning a fine of up to $150 and no jail time. A minor misdemeanor does not qualify as a criminal record.
The change in law comes after President Joe Biden overhauled the U.S. marijuana policies, pardoning thousands of people convicted with simple marijuana charges.
Mayor Aharon Brown of Forest Park and the city council have been working on the change since April. According to Brown, the decision by Biden made for an opportune moment to put the change into place.
“I wanted the laws to reflect the shifting perspective nationwide around marijuana use,” Brown said regarding the new ordinance.
While the change was set in place to reduce the sentencing of those in possession of any amount of marijuana, Brown also noted the economic side of the law. The city plans to build a small marijuana cultivating factory in the spring, Brown did not want to limit the city’s economic opportunity.
The factory is set to be 40,000 square feet. It will provide roughly 50 jobs to the city and produce cannabis to be sold to and distributed by local dispensaries. The business was founded by local veterans.
Brown is currently working with the Forest Park Chief of Police to identify anyone previously convicted of possession and provide the necessary information for those to get their record and conviction expunged. While the Forest City police will follow, it still only remains a city ordinance.
As state and federal law still recognize marijuana possession as a misdemeanor, it is up to the discretion of whichever agency identifies the possession. If someone is pulled over by a highway patrolman, even within the city limits, it is up to that individual agency to implement federal, state or local law.
Brown notes that the Chief of Police is indeed on board with the ordinance. The city council and Brown worked with both the police department and the city lawyer when creating and implementing the law. Brown would like more work to be done in regard to recreational marijuana laws.
Currently, medical use of marijuana is legal in the state of Ohio, but illegal for recreational use. Since 1975, up to 100 grams of cannabis possession has been decriminalized, resulting in only a minor misdemeanor. But on the state level, up to 200 grams remains a misdemeanor.
According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.”
Police are not required to cease arrests by this ordinance, but per an internal policy change, will not be.