Scioto County Candor
Portsmouth City residents may have the opportunity to demand that community resources no longer be used in the investigation and prosecution of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Portsmouth City Clerk Diana Ratliff confirmed that on February 12, she received a petition for a marijuana initiative. The petition was turned in by City resident Donald Eubank.
“There were 42 petitions containing 1,221 signatures from all over Scioto County,” Ratliff stated. “The petitions have not been certified to date.”
Signatures are only valid if coming from a Portsmouth resident who is registered to vote inside the City.
“What this initiative would do for Portsmouth, Ohio residents is it would decriminalize marijuana possession charges to no fine and no jail time for possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana. That’s approximately 7 ounces,” Vice President of the Cleveland NORML (a marijuana advocacy group) Pricilla Lovine Harris stated. “Under the current state law, up to 200 grams is only approximately a $150 fine. This initiative let’s the cops worry about real crimes rather than expending time and resources on marijuana offenders.”
Eubank worked with NORML to distribute petitions and gather signatures.
“He is actually one of the committee members who helped get the initiative started,” Harris stated.
The language for the ballot initiative is similar to that of other ballot initiatives that have been successful in accomplishing similar goals across the state.
“Chad Thompson is a wonderful man. He is the mastermind who wrote the language for this decrim (decriminalization legislation) as well as for Toledo,” Harris explained.
Toledo was the first city in the state to pass such an initiative. Since that time, several other cities across Ohio have passed similar legislation. Athens passed an ordinance that removed all penalties for possessing, cultivating and gifting of up to 200 grams of marijuana.
The initiative for Portsmouth is not quite as lenient.
“Possessing a small amount of marijuana — less than 200 grams — became a minor misdemeanor in Ohio in the 1970s. The offense carries no jail time, but offenders pay a fine and, until earlier this year, automatically had their driver’s licenses suspended. Local governments have ‘home rule’ authority to enact tougher or more lenient penalties for misdemeanors,” Harris explained. “This initiative makes possession of 200 grams or less or paraphernalia a ticketed offense with no fine and no jail time.”
NORML has been in the area a few times in recent months to help drive the initiative to the ballot. On Oct. 16, 2017, volunteers for the organization held a signature drive in the parking lot of the Portsmouth Save-A-Lot.
Harris stated that they were able to collect 1221 signatures.
“We only needed about 370 to make the November ballot,” she explained.
Harris added that like-minded individuals need to make sure they are registered voters or register to vote on the Secretary of State’s website.
“You must register to vote and then follow through with committing to go to the polls and vote,” she concluded.