Cannabis Ordinances Decided In Nelsonville, Adena Village, Somerset

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ATHENS (WOUB) — Voters in Nelsonville, Adena Village and Somerset were split on ordinances nullifying the fines for cannabis possession in the city.

The Nelsonville ordinance, which passed 430-321, was supported by Grassroots Ohioans. The same organization brought the Athens Cannabis Ordinance (TACO) to passage two years ago.

“What the cannabis ordinance in Nelsonville does is the same as Athens, which is reduce the fines or court costs if you’re caught with misdemeanor amounts of cannabis to $0,” said Saraquoia Bryant, president of Grassroots Ohioans. “So, it disincentivises the police from ever writing the ticket in the first place knowing they’re not going to get any municipal funding for it.”

While the fine is reduced to nothing, the court can still find someone guilty of possession of marijuana or hashish, and the charge is a minor misdemeanor if the amount is less than 200 grams of marijuana, 10 grams of solid hashish or two grams of liquid hashish. Cultivation or manufacturing less than 200 grams of the substances will also be a minor misdemeanor, with no fines or court costs.

The ordinance took a few tries to come on to the ballot, after a Nelsonville city official didn’t give the petition to the Athens County Board of elections in the proper amount of time. For that reason, the ordinance didn’t make it on to the ballot last year, according to Bryant. She said similar administrative hurtles have happened with attempts to file petitions in villages like Trimble.

The “Sensible Marihuana Ordinance” in Adena Village, which utilized similar language to Nelsonville’s, failed 126-107.

(Marihuana must be spelled with an “h” in official ballot language due to this older spelling being codified in the Ohio Revised Code.)

Grassroots organizers in the northeastern part of Ohio’s Appalachian counties have assisted in decriminalization efforts since 2016, when Bellaire’s ordinance passed.

Bill Schmitt, Jr., who has directed numerous efforts for the nonprofit Sensible Movement Coalition including Sensible Adena and Sensible Bellaire, said it’s important to them because misdemeanor charges have an impact on a person’s future.

“It could stop you from getting a job, it could stop you from getting into Section 8 housing…You can’t get some student loans…You can’t adopt a child,” Schmitt said. “You could be making these mistakes when you’re 18. When you’re 28, you want to adopt a child and you can’t? That doesn’t really make sense.”

Somerset’s code ordinance also failed in Perry County by a vote of 147-121.

There are high-profile opponents of the decriminalization and legalization movement.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) told The Enquirer after Cincinnati’s city council voted to decriminalize possession of under 100 grams that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

He cited the potential effects of cannabis on a developing brain.

“Some people look at marijuana as just some benign drug, and it’s really not,” he said.

The ordinances are a small part of the effort to bring statewide reform of cannabis regulation.

“Our next step is to continue fighting until we have full legalization and equal access for all Ohioans,” Bryant said.