The Cincinnati City Council voted Tuesday to renew a tough municipal marijuana ordinance it approved last year despite charges that it had not done what supporters said it would do: reduce violent crime. Thanks to strong local opposition to the ordinance when originally passed, it included a sunset provision and would have expired Friday if the council had not acted.
Under Ohio law, possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is no more than a ticketable offense with a maximum $100 fine. That was too lenient for the city fathers in Cincinnati, who last year passed a municipal ordinance allowing police to arrest and jail people for up to 30 days for simple pot possession. The measure would reduce crime by removing guns from the streets, allowing police to target dealers, and scaring residents of nearby Kentucky and Indiana away from coming to the city to buy drugs, supporters said at the time.
Cincinnati police testified that marijuana arrests had removed 62 guns from city streets, but opponents, led by a coalition of groups organized as Citizens for a Safer Cincinnati, argued that crime rates had increased since the ordinance was passed. They have the numbers on their side.
As Safer Cincinnati member and Hamilton County Libertarian Party head Paul Green noted in an analysis of crime figures since the ordinance was passed, the ordinance has not succeeded in any of its three goals. There were fewer arrests of out-of-staters, but their total number was small in both years, and the reduction is a measly 0.7%. And while police bragged that they had seized 62 weapons, the number of guns reported to have been used in crimes was up 27%. The number of handguns -- the weapon most commonly carried by drug dealers -- reported to have been used in crimes was up 17%.
Violent crime has also increased since the ordinance has been in place. Murders were up 16% in 2006 compared to 2005, and armed robbery was up a whopping 44%. Overall, the serious crime index showed a 4.4% increase in 2006.
But despite the ordinance's failure to achieve its stated goals, the council reapproved it. That will make the ordinance a campaign issue, Safer Cincinnati warned.