Portsmouth, Ohio Mayor Kevin E. Johnson said he’s changed his mind about decriminalizing marijuana. The Mayor initially supported legislation to decriminalize possession of 200 grams or less of pots within the city limits. Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. If the proposed law is passed, pot possession is treated similarly to a traffic ticket.
When I spoke to him just 12 days ago, he said, “”Too many lives have been messed up over a small possession amount. Council feels like they want to change it so that if you’re caught with a small amount, your life isn’t ruined. One mistake won’t hold you down or have lasting implications in your life.”
I Don’t Know If I Feel How I Did Before
However, at Monday’s Portsmouth City Council Meeting, the mayor experienced a change of heart after speaking to citizens. “I thought I knew how I felt on this, but after meeting with others from various walks of life, I don’t know if I feel about it how I did before.”
Johnson spoke just before the first reading of the ordinance before council. According to council rules, proposed legislation must be read before council members three times before it is voted on.
He also expressed concern that people possessing small amounts of pot could still be charged under state law. Portsmouth City Solicitor John Hass admitted the legislation was more of a message than an actual change in the law. “It’s more of a policy, similar to a resolution. More like sending a message up to Columbus telling them we want to decriminalize it. It’s a policy statement.”
Johnson pointed out that in order to possess marijuana, you first have to commit an additional illegal act. “They still had to buy it or cultivate it but there’s still an illegal event here.” The mayor said he’s concerned such legislation would send the message that the city supports people breaking state law.
Council Vice President Sean Dunne introduced the legislation. He said it’s an important message to send. “When we look at this in the context of the racist war on drugs, I think we understand a lot of the forces behind this are for more and more ways to limit people’s civil liberties.”
Dunne also said the law would help those in need of medical marijuana who haven’t obtained a card yet. “When you look at states that have referendums, some of the biggest backers to stop it is the pharmaceutical industry. I don’t think we need to be reminded of what the pharmaceutical industry did.”
Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon pointed out that one marijuana arrest can ruin a young person’s chance to join the military or become a first responder later in life. Dunne added that it can affect people’s ability to find housing.
Solicitor Hass agreed on both counts. “You can get evicted from public housing for a drug charge. A lot of people that’s their last resort. A good bit of the evictions for housing are related to drug offenses. ”
Mayor Johnson said, “Perhaps the answer is don’t possess marijuana.”
Council voted 4 to 1 in favor of the legislation with Johnson the lone ‘no’ vote. There are still two more reading before the final vote.