Ohio Appeals Court Upholds City's Harsh Marijuana Penalties

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by RMJL, May 17, 2004.

  1. Newsbrief: Ohio Appeals Court Upholds City's Harsh Marijuana Penalties


    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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