Newark - Newark voters approved decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana Tuesday, but Newark officials said they will not follow the new city law.

Instead, the city will charge all offenses for possessing 200 grams or less of marijuana using state law instead of the new law, Newark Law Director Doug Sassen said.

"The passage of this initiative really isn’t going to change anything in the manner in which we prosecute possession of marijuana," he said.

Sassen said there is nothing that requires the city to charge offenses under city law.

"It’s just an option that’s available if we chose to pursue it and we’re going to choose not to pursue it," he said.

The voter-driven initiative, which received 53 percent of the vote, decriminalized possession of 200 grams or less of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. A person will not face any jail time or fines for possessing either, if they are charged under the new city law. The decriminalization is in effect only in the city of Newark; it does not apply anywhere else in the county.

The state law would allow for consistency, Sassen said, and is applicable across the whole county.

Ohio's law carries a fine of $150 and no jail time for possession of less than 100 grams or paraphernalia. For possession of 100 grams to 200 grams, a person could get up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $250.

Newark's old law had carried a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail for marijuana possession and a $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail for possession of paraphernalia.

But Sassen said in the majority of cases, the city pursued charges under state law anyway for marijuana and most other criminal offenses.

Police Chief Barry Connell said the new law will not change the operations of the police department because they had been using state law in most cases.

The new law goes into effect as soon as the Licking County Board of Elections certifies the results, Sassen said.

A similar voter-driven initiative about marijuana was passed in Toledo last year. Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx previously said the city has not experienced any problems since making the changes.

Three other Ohio cities - Bellaire in Belmont County, Logan in Hocking County and Roseville in Perry and Muskingum counties - also passed similar marijuana decriminalization Tuesday.

Alissa Baker, co-founder of the East Central Ohio Decriminalization Initiative group that placed the measure on the ballot, said she was disappointed the city will charge offenses under state law and expects voters to be upset as well.

"This is an opportunity to take advantage of something and show other cities that this is something that could be beneficial to help other people," she said.

Baker, who lives in Hebron, said the group would be willing to work with city officials to make the changes beneficial to Newark.

"If they’re willing to work with us, we would be more than willing to work with them," she said.



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Full Article: Newark To Ignore Newly Passed Pot Decriminalization
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