A decision by the Cincinnati City Council to decriminalize cannabis possession earlier this month is drawing some negative attention from Ohio's top officials.
"I don't think it's a great idea," said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) last week in response to Cincinnati's decision to remove penalties from getting caught with up to 100 grams of cannabis. And while the state governor declined to comment further on why he was so disappointed with Cincinnati's decision, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) was pretty clear about how he felt about it.
Yost said the city had no need to move forward with decriminalization when state law says that individuals can't be arrested for possession of under 100 grams of cannabis. Fines for those amounts of cannabis are also relatively low, topping out at $150.
"These laws are symbolic. They're not going to create any new cause of action," Yost told WCPO. "But it shows a disrespect for the law and an arrogance on the part of legislators in a city that want to wrest away from the state the responsibly for making laws."
Instead of doing anyone any good, Yost said Cincinnati councils were simply pandering for votes.
However, the city lawmakers who helped make the change happen have pushed back. As the bill's co-sponsor Jeff Pastor said, state law may not allow for people to be arrested, but cannabis possession is still noted on their records, which can have a lasting affect on their ability to work and live a safe and healthy life. The city's new law means there will be no fines and no blemishes on a person's criminal record for being caught with under 100 grams of cannabis.
"We're certainly not pandering for any votes," Pastor said. "This is a human issue. This is righting a wrong."
Cannabis reform has been slow to materialize in Ohio. While medical marijuana was legalized back in 2016, it was only this year that legal sales of the medication began. Meanwhile, Gov. DeWine has actively campaigned against broader legalization in the Buckeye State.
However, despite the opposition from ranking state officials Cincinnati police have stated they will be following city law and refrains from prosecuting individuals under state marijuana laws.