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Marijuana Decriminalization in Cincinnati: The Unanswered Questions

This month, City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession in Cincinnati for individuals who possess up to 100 grams. But does this mean people can light up a joint within the city limits? Not so fast.

Possession Remains an Offense in Ohio Revised Code

First, under the Ohio Revised Code, an individual still faces a minor misdemeanor for possessing any amount of marijuana. Ohio Revised Code 2925.11 explicitly prohibits the possession of any amount of marijuana. A law enforcement officer, including a Cincinnati Police Officer, Hamilton County Sheriff Deputy, or Ohio State Highway Patrol officer, can cite a person possessing under 100 grams of marijuana under the Ohio Revised Code. If convicted, the individual faces no jail time, but up to a $150 fine, a driver's license suspension ranging from six months to five years, and a conviction of record. 

Paraphernalia Remains an Offense in City Code and Ohio Revised Code

Second, Cincinnati's new law does not modify the paraphernalia possession ordinance. Ohio Revised Code 2925.141 makes the possession of rolling papers for marijuana, pipe or bowl for marijuana, and any other drug paraphernalia illegal. Furthermore, paraphernalia is still illegal under Cincinnati Code 879-7. Therefore, if a person possesses a small amount of marijuana rolled up in a joint or packed in a glass bowl, the paper or the glass bowl falls under the definition of "drug paraphernalia" under the Cincinnati Municipal Code. The new ordinance does not protect a person from being cited under the Cincinnati Municipal Code or Ohio Revised Code for possession of drug paraphernalia. Paraphernalia is a second-degree misdemeanor under the Cincinnati Municipal Code, punishable by up to a $750 fine and 90 days in jail and a minor misdemeanor under the Ohio Revised Code. 

Form of Marijuana Matters

Third, many people are gravitating towards different forms of marijuana for personal use as opposed to the traditional flower form, including liquids, gels, dabs, gummy bears, and candies. The law treats this form of marijuana much differently than the flower form. Liquid concentrate, liquid extract, or liquid distillate of hashish is a felony when a person possesses more than 1 gram. If a person possesses 3 grams or more of liquid concentrate, the offense rises to a third-degree felony and prison time is very possible. The law permits law enforcement and prosecutors to use the weight of the entire mixture when determining possession amounts, meaning the possession of a 12-ounce drink with only a few doses of THC is the equivalent of possession 340 grams of liquid concentrate which is a serious felony. 

Constitutionality and Ambiguity

There are many unanswered questions concerning the enforcement of marijuana laws given the recent major changes in the marijuana industry and marijuana possession laws in Cincinnati and across the country. The changes in the law may open the door to constitutional challenges related to the conflicting possession laws and their enforceability.

If you or anyone you know has been cited with possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia in Ohio, contact us for a free consultation. 

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