Voters in at least six municipalities across Ohio will have an opportunity to vote on local initiatives to decriminalize marijuana in November.
The decriminalization of misdemeanor cannabis offenses will appear on the ballot in Dayton, Fremont, Garrettsville, Norwood, Oregon and Windham.
Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana is currently a misdemeanor in Ohio, punishable by a $150 to $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail, depending on the exact amount.
The proposed ballot measures won’t change state law, but if approved they will alter local policies and likely protect at least some cannabis consumers from criminal sanctions. The ultimate impact will depend on whether municipal police choose to abide by the will of local voters or instead use their authority to continue enforcing state policy.
Here’s the text of each local measure:
Dayton: “Shall the Dayton Revised Code of General Ordinances be amended to decriminalize specific misdemeanor marijuana and hashish offenses?”
Fremont: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
Garrettsville: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
Norwood: “Shall the proposed ordinance adding Section 513.15 Marijuana Laws and Penalties to the City of Norwood Municipal Code, which would lower the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law, be adopted?”
Oregon: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
Windham: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
“Voters in these six municipalities have the ability to send a resounding message to the state legislature of Ohio in advance of their next legislative session,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in an interview. “That message would simply be, ‘stop arresting our friends and loved ones.'”
An attempt to get decriminalization on the ballot in Nelsonville was derailed earlier this year after a city attorney found “fatal flaws” with petitions that were initially submitted, The Athens News reported. The group behind the proposed ordinance, Grassroots Ohioans, resubmitted amended petitions, but the deadline for inclusion on the 2018 ballot had passed.
Last month, a federal judge ordered the Garrettsville and Windham measures onto their respective ballots after local officials initially tried to keep them off.
Norwood Police Chief William Kramer has already said that his department would continue to prosecute people for misdemeanor marijuana offenses according to state law, regardless of the election outcome.
In 2015, Ohio voters resoundingly defeated a statewide marijuana legalization measure that was opposed even by many longtime cannabis policy reformers who were concerned about the manner in which it proposed a lock on cultivation licenses by the people who paid for the effort to put it on the ballot.
While much of the country’s attention has focused on cannabis reform developments at the state level, a growing number of cities and counties throughout the U.S. are also participating in the movement.
“These ballots initiatives did not magically appear, but rather were earned by the commitment and dedication of citizens from around Ohio,” Strekal, of NORML, said of the local measures in the Buckeye State. “In recent years, the tireless work of individuals around the country have resulted in over 50 cities and localities reducing fines and penalties for simple possession.”
In Wisconsin, advisory referendums in 16 counties will ask voters to weigh in on cannabis legalization for either medical or recreational use this November. Nearly half of the state’s population lives in those counties. Advisory questions cropped up throughout Massachusetts in election cycles preceding the state’s 2016 vote to legalize marijuana for adult use.
Unlike advisory questions, the local ordinances in Ohio aren’t just designed to gauge public sentiment toward cannabis reform; they’re binding policies that will take effect immediately if a majority of voters approve them.
It’s difficult to say on a city-by-city level how voters will react to the decriminalization ordinances, but in general, Ohioans seem increasingly supportive of marijuana reform. A June poll of 500 likely midterm election voters in the state found that 55 percent are OK with medical cannabis dispensaries in their neighborhoods, for example.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.
Chris Christie Finally Recognizes Marijuana Legalization As States’ Rights Issue
Famously anti-marijuana former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) isn’t jumping on the pro-legalization train any time soon—but new comments suggest he might be softening his opposition a smidge, recognizing marijuana reform as a states’ rights issue.
Speaking at Politicon on Saturday, Christie took a question about his cannabis stance from YouTuber Kyle Kulinski, who asked him to weigh in on studies showing that states with legal marijuana programs experience lower rates of opioid addiction and overdoses compared to non-legal states. He was quick to dismiss the research, contending that other studies show the “exact opposite.”
“I just don’t believe when we’re in the midst of a drug addiction crisis that we need to legalize another drug,” Christie said, echoing comments he’s made as chair of President Donald Trump’s opioids committee.
Then he pivoted, acknowledging that some will push back on his anti-legalization position by pointing out that alcohol is legal. “I get that,” he said, “but I wasn’t here when we legalized alcohol.”
Kulinski seized on that point and asked the former governor if he’d vote to ban alcohol.
“No, I wouldn’t ban it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and that’s a big, important argument about marijuana because once you legalize this, that toothpaste never goes back in the tube.”
Christie stood out among other Republican and Democratic contenders during his 2016 presidential run by maintaining that in addition to personally opposing legalization, he’d crack down on legal cannabis states and enforce federal laws nationwide if elected.
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said in 2015. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
So it came as something of a surprise when the former governor went on to say in the Politicon appearance that “states have the right to do what they want to do on this,” signaling a modest shift in his anti-marijuana rhetoric. States should have that right even though, as Christie put it, “broad legalization of marijuana won’t, in my view, alleviate or even minimize the opioid crisis.”
It’s unclear what’s behind the apparent shift from hardline prohibitionist to wary federalist, but who knows… maybe Christie experienced an epiphany at a Melissa Etheridge concert he attended earlier this month.
Etheridge, who recently spoke with Marijuana Moment about her cannabis advocacy and use of the drug for medicinal purposes, reacted to a tweet showing Christie at one of her recent performances, where he reportedly knew every word of her songs and sang along.
— Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge) October 6, 2018
Christie, for his part, replied that he “enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans.”
And enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans https://t.co/TQdJ8fzkTM
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 6, 2018
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
Marijuana Support Grows: Two Out Of Three Americans Back Legalization, Gallup Says
Two-thirds of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, the highest percentage ever in Gallup’s ongoing decades-long series of national polls on the topic.
The new survey released on Monday shows that U.S. adults back ending cannabis prohibition by a supermajority margin of 66 percent to 32 percent. That’s more than a two-to-one ratio.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.
North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Measure Winning In Latest Poll
North Dakota voters appear poised to legalize marijuana via a ballot measure next month, according to a new poll.
Measure 3, which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over in one of the country’s most conservative states—and with no possession limits—is ahead among likely voters by a margin of 51 percent to 36 percent in the survey released on Sunday.
North Dakota has brought marijuana policy reform supporters pleasant surprises before. Medical cannabis was approved there by an overwhelming majority of voters in 2016, for example, and will be available to patients sometime in 2019.
And despite little pro-legalization funding and relatively large spending in opposition to the ballot measure—a flip of the usual paradigm seen in most other states with cannabis initiatives—libertarian-leaning and younger voters on the prairie appear to be pushing Measure 3 towards a slim victory.
The results sharply contrast to those of another poll released earlier this month, which found the marijuana measure losing, 59 percent to 30 percent.
And although legalization support was significantly larger than opposition in the new survey, 13 percent of the 412 respondents say they are still undecided, leaving the issue very much in balance in the lead up to Election Day.
Nonetheless, legalization advocates are pleased with the new polling result.
“Despite a big-money funded misinformation campaign from the opposition, this poll reveals that most North Dakotans are ready to end the failed prohibition of marijuana in the state,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a press release. “By voting ‘Yes’ on Measure 3, North Dakotans could save the state millions of taxpayer dollars currently being spent on arresting otherwise law-abiding adults for possession of a plant that is objectively less harmful than legal alcohol and tobacco, allow law enforcement to allocate their limited resources to focus on violent crime, and defend individual freedom.”
But activists know that the opposition has more money, and aren’t taking anything for granted over the next few weeks.
“The message of ending marijuana arrests is resounding in North Dakota, and these results demonstrate that voters are hearing our call for action. This is a dogfight, and LegalizeND will continue to set the record straight when it comes to adult-use marijuana,” Cole Haymond, a campaign advisory for Legalize ND, said.
Consistent with other states where medical marijuana has become legal, the measure performed best with voters under 50 in the new poll. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were 50 or older, suggesting that if younger voters turn out on Election Day, the measure may stand an even better chance of success.
“Passage of Measure 3 is greatly dependent upon the voters under the age of 50 voting in at least their historical percentages,” reads a polling memo by The Kitchens Group, which conducted the survey. “If the electorate is skewed toward the older, more conservative voters, passage could be problematic.”
But Measure 3 is being sold to voters on a personal responsibility platform, with emphasis on harsher penalties for sales to minors—and on marijuana’s proven ability to alleviate opiate-related overdoses and deaths.
When these aspects of the ballot measure were mentioned to poll respondents, support increased by the end of the eight-question survey.
Both before and after the push-polling, the percentage of voters who said they would “definitely” vote no stayed at a consistent 29 percent, suggesting that North Dakota has only a hardcore minority of prohibition-minded voters, with many more undecideds and pro-legalization voters.
The ballot measure is very far-reaching compared to those proposed in other states. It would allow possession, cultivation and sales of marijuana, with no set limits, though lawmakers would almost certainly enact regulations in the event of the measure’s passage. It would also expunge prior cannabis convictions.
The poll was conducted between October 11 and 14, and has a margin of error or +/- 4.9 percentage points.
Voters in seven states will consider marijuana ballot measures on Election Day this year.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Measure 3 legalized only small amounts of marijuana. The text of Measure 3 legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and over with no possession limits. This article has been updated.