Statewide efforts to legalize marijuana in Ohio failed at the ballot box last year, but several cities pressed ahead, voting to decriminalize cannabis within their city limits. This takes a solid first step toward effectively nullifying prohibition in practice.
Voters in the Ohio cities of Bellaire, Logan, Newark and Roseville all approved marijuana decriminalization measures in the November election.
Individuals caught in possession of fewer than 200 grams of marijuana in those four cities will no longer face a fine or jail time if they are caught by local police. According to the International Business Times, the state capital of Columbus along with several other cities throughout the Buckeye State are expected to be next in line for activists to push ballot initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession.
One of the principal organizers of the Bellaire effort, Bill Schmitt told Cleveland.com that this is the effective way to circumvent legislators who are unwilling to take common sense reforms on marijuana. “If lawmakers don’t want to change the laws, we have the power to change them ourselves and that’s something we have the template to do,” he said.
The template has resulted in many victories. Toledo, Ohio, passed a similar measure last year. Neighboring states Pennsylvania and Michigan have decriminalized marijuana possession in dozens of their cities throughout the past several years. This is not only happening in the Midwest, but also in many cities throughout the country as well.
Strategically, this kind of local action can have an impact at the state level in the same way state action has impacted the feds. If enough cities and counties the states decriminalize marijuana, it could conceivably nullify state law to at least some degree. As more and more political subdivisions implement similar policies, it will increase pressure to change the law at the state level.
Legalization of marijuana in these cities removes a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state and local, not federal law. By mostly ending local prohibition, these Ohio cities are essentially sweeping away the basis for many marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without a great deal of state and local assistance.
A POWERFUL MOVEMENT
In addition to local nullification, there are a growing number of states that are simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states this year.
With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. Local communities such as of Bellaire, Logan, Newark and Roseville in Ohio choosing to decriminalize move this process forward in a significant manner.
This is a powerful strategy we can use to rein in federal overreach with a total bottom up approach, starting at the local level, and then working up through the state, ultimately eroding federal power completely away.