Three towns in Athens County will be voting in November on whether to decriminalize marijuana within the incorporated municipality.
Organized by the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws Appalachia of Ohio, the measure is similar to ballot items that have been passed in the cities of Nelsonville and Athens. The three Athens County towns contemplating the same type of ballot items are Glouster, Jacksonville and Trimble. NORML is also seeking to pass a similar ballot measure this fall in Adena, located in Harrison and Jefferson Counties.
If passed, the ballot measures would reduce penalties for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest allowed by law. In Athens, the ordinance lowered the cost of misdemeanor marijuana citations within the city limits to $0, including no court costs. This applies to possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana, possession of 10 grams of hash, cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana, gifts of up to 20 grams of marijuana and possession and sale of paraphernalia, which includes items like pipes, bowls and grinders.
A similar measure passed in 2016 in the city of Logan.
Don Keeney, executive director of NORML Appalachia of Ohio, said the goal is to help individuals who are sentenced on a marijuana misdemeanor to not be barred from receiving housing, college grants and other assistance due to misdemeanor charges.
“We don’t think it’s right,” he said.
The measure would also place marijuana offenses as one of the lowest priorities for law enforcement, leaving them more latitude to address higher-stakes issues.
Keeney noted that Trimble received an 100 percent validation rate for the signatures on its petition; Glouster had a 65 percent validation rate; and Jacksonville reached 85 percent.
“Those are unheard of numbers,” Keeney said. “People are very open to this. The support has been very good.”
If these measures pass, Athens would become the most de-penalized county in the state, following Lucas County where three municipalities have similar measures on the books.
Keeney noted that this is not the only way de-penalization measures can be enacted. In Plymouth, Ohio, the city council voted to de-penalize misdemeanor marijuana charges but reached a split vote. The mayor then approved the measure to enact it into law.
Jacksonville, Trimble and Glouster residents will have the opportunity to vote on the marijuana de-penalization measure during the Nov. 3 General Election.