Voters in the City of Athens will vote on a new ordinance come the Nov. 7 election. The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, also known as TACO, has received enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
The ordinance proposes to remove the fines and court costs for all misdemeanor-level marijuana-related offenses inside the City of Athens, including possession of under 200g of marijuana, under 10 grams of hashish, cultivation of under 200g of marijuana, gifts of under 20g of marijuana and possession and sale of paraphernalia.
“These offenses would remain crimes, but the removal of fines and court costs aims to reduce law enforcement incentive to prosecute for these minor offenses,” a Facebook account associated with the ordinance wrote in a news release. “Felony-level offenses, like trafficking, possession, or cultivation of large amounts, would still carry the same penalties as they currently do.”
Similar ordinances have passed in other cities in Ohio, according to the release, including Toledo, Newark, Bellaire, Logan and Roseville. The Toledo Sensible Marihuana Ordinance passed in September 2015 and was the first of its kind by a 70 to 30 percent vote, according to the Toldeo Blade. However, only about 10 percent of registered voters made it to the polls that election.
The Toledo ordinance received pushback from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp and Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, when they filed suit to block sections of the law that attempt to rewrite state felony law regarding amounts of marijuana greater than 200 grams. The lawsuit did not contest the parts of the ordinance abolishing fines and jail terms for misdemeanor amounts of marijuana possession, according to the Toledo Blade.
The Athens ordinance that will be on the ballot, however, is different than ones that passed previously in Ohio in a few different ways, according to the news release.
“First, while the Spanish-language spelling must be used in the ordinance text to match Ohio state law, the title of the ordinance uses the word “cannabis,” a more neutral and correct term,” the group wrote in the release. “Second, TACO added a preamble, affirming our right to local self-government, stating the intent to reduce cannabis to the lowest law enforcement priority and redirect resources toward more serious and violent crimes, and recognizing that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol, is accepted as medicine in the United States, and presents vast economic opportunities.”
The Athens County Board of Elections deemed the petition to be valid and all signatures were counted and verified.