PORTSMOUTH — In the days following Portsmouth City Council’s decision to bring a marijuana decriminalization ordinance to reading, county officials have expressed their questions and concerns.
During Thursday’s Scioto County Commissioners meeting, Bryan Davis could not see how the legislation, which would remove fines and prison time for possession under 200 grams, could lead to further economic development but worried about the ramifications to the city and its youth.
“We have a major drug problem already,” said Davis, in reference to the opioid epidemic. “Our preference is no one uses drugs to begin with.”
Mike Crabtree withheld comment, but Cathy Coleman also said she was not in support of decriminalization. She saw this as a “last-ditch effort” by the city to improve its status.
“I hope they reconsider what they are doing,” Coleman said.
Understanding of the medical benefits and drawbacks of the drug differed between the commissioners and council, which have been researched by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. While Davis understood marijuana to be a gateway drug, NIDA found in its revised Marijuana Research Report that most users did not continue on to harder drugs.
First Ward Councilman Sean Dunne, who proposed the legislation, believes decriminalization could help the county in its fight against opioid overdoses, where Harm Reduction Ohio reported the highest overdose death rate ever in the state last year. NIDA, however, concluded more research needs to be conducted in order to fully understand the relationship.
In its findings, the institute reports that adolescent exposure to marijuana could lead to loss of IQ and memory functions. NIDA has not reached consensus on the medical benefits and thus needs more research before doing so.
Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney Shane Tieman said in a Facebook post that the legislation would not truly decriminalize possession. The penalty would be omitted, but still be considered a misdemeanor offense under Ohio Revised Code section 2925.11(C)(3).
“Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code section 2925.03(C)(3), if you traffick in marijuana, it starts as a felony of the fifth degree and elevates based upon the amount and/or if you are near a school or juvenile,” wrote Tieman. “Money or other consideration does not need to be exchanged to be considered trafficking.”
The marijuana ordinance and other topics will be discussed again at City Council’s next meeting Aug. 24. The agenda and past meeting’s minutes can be found on the city website.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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