Newsbrief: Ohio Appeals Court Upholds City's Harsh Marijuana Penalties 5/14/04

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Under Ohio's drug laws, possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana is considered a minor misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $150, no jail time, and no criminal record. That wasn't tough enough for the good burghers of Medina, a small city of 25,000 located a few dozen miles south of Cleveland. They passed a city ordinance making possession of up to 100 grams a first degree misdemeanor, with a maximum $1,000 fine, a criminal record -- and a mandatory minimum three-day jail sentence.

Unsurprisingly, it didn't take long for the ordinance to be challenged, and a Medina Municipal Court judge found it unconstitutional because it conflicted with state law. But in a surprising May 5 ruling, the Ohio 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.

The defendants in the case argued that the city criminalized conduct that is not criminal under the Ohio Revised Code. The municipal court agreed, holding that the city ordinance increased the offense level (from minor to first-degree misdemeanor) and thus violated the Home Rule section of the Ohio Constitution, which allows cities to enact ordinances that "are not in conflict with general laws."

The city appealed the ruling, and in a unanimous decision, a three-judge Ohio 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel led by Judge Lynn Slaby overturned the municipal court and upheld the ordinance, ruling that only city ordinances that changed offenses from misdemeanors to felonies would conflict with state law.

Defense attorney Ronald Spears told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he would appeal the ruling. The ordinance makes carrying a joint a more serious offense than possessing methamphetamine or cocaine or heroin in Medina because none of them carrying mandatory jail time, he pointed out. "It's a ridiculous waste of money," he said.

But the city of Medina is ready to get right back to business. Mayor Jane Leaver greeted the ruling by announcing the next day that the city police would "re-implement" the ordinance pending any further rulings.

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Issue #337, 5/14/04 Editorial: Always Another Angle | Russia Enacts Sweeping Reforms in Drug Laws: No Jail for Possession | Maryland Treatment Not Jail Bill Signed Into Law | Canada Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Dying as Government Prepares to Call Elections, Few Mourners | Calls for Sentencing Reform Grow in Arizona | Announcing: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War" -- New Compendium by Sheriff Masters Features David Borden and Numerous Other Thinkers on Drug Policy | Newsbrief: Local Prosecutor Tries to Block Atlantic City Needle Exchange, Would Be New Jersey's First | Newsbrief: Pennsylvania Attorney General Hops on Prescription Drug Abuse Bandwagon | Newsbrief: Ohio Appeals Court Upholds City's Harsh Marijuana Penalties | Newsbrief: Congress Defeats Effort to Abolish Cap on US Troops in Colombia | Newsbrief: Anti-Drug Ads Pique Curiosity, Researcher Finds | Newsbrief: Alcohol Prohibition Coming to Nigerian State | Newsbrief: Study Finds "No Increased Risk" for Marijuana-Using Drivers | Newsbrief: Hip-Hop Summit Announces Mass Rally Against Drug War at GOP Convention | Newsbrief: Finnish Green MP Causes Flap with Admission of Cannabis Use | Newsbrief: Million Marijuana Marches, Continued -- Rocking in Rosario, Repression in Russia and Israel | This Week in History | Job Opportunity: Program Coordinator, International Harm Reduction Development Program, OSI | The Reformer's Calendar

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