Under a new Athens ordinance, those convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses will pay no fines.
The Athens Cannabis Ordinance passed by 77 percent with 2,000 votes. It aims to decrease the incentive for Athens police officers to enforce marijuana laws by removing the fines and court costs offenders pay.
“Law enforcement is a business just like any other one,” Caleb Brown, one of the petition leaders, . “With no fines or court costs to be paid from local citations, the justice system will quickly recognize that enforcing misdemeanor marijuana offenses in town is not a profitable venture.”
Under the Ohio Revised Code, or fewer is a minor misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $150. Possessing at least 100 grams but less than 200 grams is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. Carrying at least 200 grams of marijuana is a felony, and the ordinance will not apply.
The new ordinance won’t apply to citations the Ohio University Police Department issues on campus. OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said in a previous Post report that his department issues citations based on the Ohio Revised Code not local ordinances.
Though officials from both departments say marijuana enforcement is not a high priority, OUPD officers write more citations for marijuana than APD officers do. During the course of one especially busy September weekend, OUPD officers wrote 13 citations, as many as APD officers wrote in all of 2016.
Students convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses under the ordinance might still risk losing federal financial aid. The City of Athens has a standing plea deal to amend a minor misdemeanor marijuana citation to minor misdemeanor disorderly conduct in exchange for a guilty plea, according to a previous Post report. That allows students to keep their federal financial aid, but it comes with a $50 fine and court costs.