What’s the future for marijuana in Cleveland? One councilman’s decriminalization efforts move forward

African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession

Efforts underway to decriminalize marijuana in Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - No fines, no time.

Ward Six Councilman Blaine Griffin is sponsoring an ordinance that aims to eliminate fines and prison time for possession of under 200 grams of marijuana.

The ordinance would lower the penalties for misdemeanor marijuana, with the intent to “avoid unnecessary incarceration, economic burdens of fines, and uneven enforcement,” according to City Council’s website.

Now, people charged with possession of fewer than 100 grams of marijuana can be fined up to $150. Those charged with possession of 100 to 200 grams of marijuana can be fined up to $250 and incarcerated for up to 30 days, according to NORML, a nonprofit that supports the decriminalization of marijuana.

19 News Investigator Alan Cohn reported that Griffin says he wants to address the disparity in how the criminal justice system addresses simple marijuana possession by African Americans and whites.

Marijuana use is about the same between the two ethnicities, but African Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to a 2013 report by the ACLU.

“When they get these kinds of offenses, it affects their ability to receive social services, it affects their ability to get good employment, and it oftentimes affects their ability to get federal loans and grants in order to go to college or get trained,” Griffin said.

Griffin says the ordinance will have co-sponsors, and that the legislation will be deliberated over in the coming weeks.

Several Ohio cities such as Cincinnati and Toledo have already adopted similar measures.

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