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Cleveland Safety Committee might remove all fines and jail time for less than 200 grams of marijuana

Marijuana
Posted at 9:15 AM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 09:46:07-05

CLEVELAND — On Wednesday, the Cleveland Public Safety Committee is expected to consider removing all fines for possessing less than 200 grams of marijuana.

The Cleveland Law Department says there is no legal objection to the change, but Public Safety Director Michael McGrath has indicated he wants to talk about the impact on law enforcement before the proposed changes become law.

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Public Safety Director Michael McGrath send this letter to the Safety Committee Chair Councilman Matt Zone.

“This is out modern-day Prohibition,” said Councilman Blaine Griffin who proposed the change over the summer.

“I wanted to look into it more,” said ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County Chief Clinical Officer Consultant Dr. Leslie Koblentz.

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Dr. Koblentz says the ADAMHS Board doesn't support marijuana use but thinks users would be better served getting treatment and not jail time.

At first, Dr. Koblentz says she was surprised because in her experience working in the Cuyahoga County Jail, she says there were a lot of people locked up for marijuana offenses.

“That’s the problem,” said Dr. Koblentz. “So many folks are in there for that.”

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Canadians smoke marijuana at a lounge in Windsor, Ontario on the first day that recreational marijuana became legal across the country. Clevelanders could potentially have up to 200 grams of marijuana without penalty if a change to a city ordinance gets enough support.

The ADAMHS Board does not condone the use of marijuana, but Dr. Koblentz says locking people up for it only creates more problems.

“What’s the answer to overcrowding in the jails,” asked Dr. Koblentz. “Not incarcerating folks that have minor marijuana offenses.

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Cities like Columbus and Cincinnati have already taken some steps to remove to reduce marijuana possession penalties.

Instead, she says more drug treatment options would serve users better.

For Councilman Griffin, the amended ordinance is also about equality under the law.

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Councilman Griffin proposed this ordinance that would remove all penalties for possessing less than 200 grams of marijuana.

“There’s bias whenever you have these kind of penalties,” said Griffin.

The ACLU says while black Americans use marijuana at roughly the same rate, but black people are about four times more likely to get arrested for it.

Griffin says it’s important to make sure there are no penalties in Cleveland because even small fines can be too much to pay for some people, leading to more serious legal consequences.

“The whole goal is to try to keep people out of the system to try to promote equity and fairness,” said Griffin.

You can find information from the ACLU here.

You can find more information about marijuana usage from the National Institute on Drug Abuse here.