The City of Athens has decriminalized marijuana laws since 2017. Now, Ohio might follow its lead as Issue 2 – which will legalize the sale of marijuana for adults who are at least 21 years old and also legalize homegrown plants – will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said someone possessing marijuana will get a minor misdemeanor charge, but there will be no added fines with the charge.
Since the city has decriminalized its marijuana laws, Patterson said Athens Chief of Police Nick Magruder indicated that there have been approximately 12 citations associated with marijuana in Athens in the last six years.
If Issue 2 passes, marijuana sales would be taxed at 10% on top of the existing state and county sale taxes, generating an influx of annual revenue for state and local governments.
The increased tax revenue will be used to increase funding for public safety, road improvements, drug treatment and prevention, and investment in areas disproportionately affected by past marijuana-related criminal charges.
“If it goes legal, the system better catch up and start saying, ‘We’ve made it legal,’” Patterson said. “Why would anybody (continue) to be held within the correctional system on something that is now legal?”
After Athens passed the decriminalization laws, other cities – including Glouster, Jacksonville and Trimble – in Athens County followed its lead to pass similar bills.
“I am not surprised,” Patterson said. “The legalization of recreational marijuana has come up in the past, and (I) had been expecting, at some point, for it to come back up again. The city has been going down this road for many years for a long time, in terms of looking at various ways in which we can decriminalize marijuana here in the City of Athens.”
Even if Issue 2 passes, the Ohio University Code of Conduct, which all OU students signed, states that students are prohibited from the use and/or possession of marijuana or substances derived from marijuana unless expressly permitted by law.
The rule applies to all students attending the university, both on and off campus, but regulating the use of marijuana off-campus is mostly left to the Athens Police Department.
Ohio University Police Department Staff Lieutenant Tim Ryan said marijuana has not been a problem for OUPD, and he does not foresee Issue 2 – if passed – being an added issue.
However, since OU is a public university, it is required to follow state and federal laws regarding marijuana use.
“Marijuana of all forms remains illegal at the federal level, and Ohio University must comply with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. All forms of marijuana, cannabis products and paraphernalia are not permitted to be on campus at any time for any reason,” Dan Pittman, senior director of communications for OU, wrote in an email.
Since the university receives federal funding, it is required to implement a program aimed at preventing students, faculty and staff from using illicit drugs and abusing alcohol. If Issue 2 passes, then it would not affect OU’s current marijuana policy because it is not a federal law.
However, the university could reevaluate its policy if new federal laws or amendments were to be passed that would affect the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.
Patterson said he hopes to see the federal government start taking the initiative to make a change to its current laws on marijuana, too.
“It would be great if the federal government would deschedule marijuana as a controlled substance, and because by doing that, it makes it easier and legal on the revenue side for the banking of the monies that are generated through medical (and recreational) marijuana,” Patterson said.