Note: This story appears in the Thursday, Nov. 7 newspaper on Page A1.

NELSONVILLE — Just as Athens voters did several years ago, Nelsonville residents voted Tuesday to de-penalize marijuana offenses in the city.

The Nelsonville City Cannabis Ordinance was approved with a comfortable majority — 430 votes in favor to 321 against, according to unofficial results provided by the Athens County Board of Elections.

This ordinance lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to having fines of $0.

Supporters of the measure have said the idea behind the ordinance is to make marijuana offenses one of the lowest priorities for local law enforcement.

As approved, the ordinance would not legalize marijuana within city limits. However, it would lower the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to effectively nothing.

Saraquoia Bryant, secretary of the Southeast Ohio chapter of NORML (the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) and president of Grassroots Ohioans, has been a leader in getting the matter on the ballot. She said on Wednesday that NORML members are “very excited” about the passage.

“It’s progress,” she said. “Now we’re on to state legalization.”

This proposal has been in the works for several years in Nelsonville, and an effort was made to get it on last year’s ballot.

“With Nelsonville being a conservative community, I think this sends a clear message that cannabis legalization is wanted,” Bryant said.

As The Messenger has reported, a resident could still be found guilty of possession of marijuana and hashish, but if the amount is less than 200 grams of marijuana, 10 grams of solid hashish or two grams of liquid hashish, the offense would be a minor misdemeanor with a fine of $0.

Also, cultivation/manufacturing of less than 200 grams of marijuana would be a minor misdemeanor with a penalty of $0.

No court costs could be assessed for those minor misdemeanors.

The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, known as TACO, passed with more than 75 percent of the vote in 2017.

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