DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – City of Dayton voters can soon choose to eliminate fines for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The advisory question is on the ballot this election.
It’s a simple yes or no question, and if it passes, the City Commission pledges to eliminate fines for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Martin Gehres, Dayton’s Assistant City Attorney, says, “What this will do is tell the commission that you want the minor misdemeanor possession charges in the city of Dayton to be reduced to a zero dollar fine.”
The fine is currently $150 for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The city says decriminalizing it will save money, and keep people out of the criminal justice system for what are sometimes seen as minor offenses. Gehres says, “There’s some social justice implications with it, the other benefit is changing times. People’s attitudes have changed.”
Even if city code were to change, it would not supersede federal or state law, where marijuana possession is still illegal.
Thaddeus Hoffmeister is a Professor of Law at the University of Dayton. He says, “Whatever the federal law is, it remains on the books. So if it’s a federal crime then the federal authorities can prosecute that crime. So regardless of what happens locally or at the state level, the federal crime remains on the books.”
Which means federal or state authorities could still pursue and charge offenders. Hoffmeister says, “They could arguably, based on federal statute, but they don’t. So the enforcement is left at the local level. So de facto, it most likely won’t be enforced.”
We reached out to both the Montgomery County Sheriff and the Dayton Police Department for interviews but neither was available. A reminder that this issue will only appear on the ballots for Dayton residents.