Cleveland, which sits on the shores of Lake Erie, is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the greatest orchestras in the country and the only river in history to have caught on fire. Now, the gritty mid-western city can boast a reasonable City Council.
On Jan. 27, 2020, several days after Austin did the same, the Cleveland City Council voted to remove all penalties for possession of up to 200 grams of cannabis, basically decriminalizing weed in Ohio’s second-largest city.
People convicted of misdemeanor possession would not carry a criminal record and would not be required to report the conviction on applications for employment and licenses, which is huge.
The ordinance, which passed by a 15-2 vote, removes all fines and jail time for possession under the city’s new limit. The two opposed wanted the possession reduced to 100 grams.
Cleveland Councilman Blaine A. Griffin, lead sponsor of the legislation, said the action was needed to ensure equity, noting that African Americans are more likely to be charged with marijuana crimes than their white counterparts.
Griffin referred to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports confirming that African Americans were seven times more likely to receive criminal charges for low-level marijuana possession than whites.
”Across the United States, people are re-examining how we deal with marijuana. Let this be a bold first step in how we look at 21st century policing,” Griffin told an audience at the council committee meeting, before the full council vote, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“In addition to good government, this is really trying to create an equitable policy, as well as moving to the 21st century and away from the ’70s, when it comes to marijuana and cannabis use,” Griffin added.
Other Ohio cities, including Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo, have recently decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The ordinance now needs to be signed into law by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.
City Council Displays Autonomy in Austin
One Jan. 23, 2020 the City Council of Austin Texas voted unanimously, 9-0, to put an end to arrests and fines for people caught with small amounts of marijuana – less than 4 ounces or amounts considered to be for personal use.
The Austin police is also prohibited from pursuing new testing methods to distinguish marijuana from legal hemp – already a complicated endeavor.
Similar logic as Cleveland
“It’s time to do the right thing,” said Austin Council Member Greg Casar, who led the effort. “It’s the right thing for criminal justice reform. It’s the right thing from a common sense perspective, and it’s the right thing for racial equity.”
Although in Austin, the police say they will still issue citations and detain individuals for possession, but will no longer issue fines or require court dates for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.
In that city councils do not actually have the jurisdiction to decriminalize marijuana while it remains illegal at the state level, Austin’s resolution prevents the city from spending taxpayer dollars on testing for misdemeanor pot offenses.