Local group working to decriminalize marijuana in Newark

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A marijuana decriminalization group is going door to door in Newark, hoping to collect enough signatures to put a measure on the November ballot.

A measure that would remove fines and penalties for possessing small amounts of pot.

Volunteers have less than two weeks to collect 1,063 signatures and turn them in to city officials by July 15.

"It's something that we can do, that we know we're going to make progress, we're going to make change, we're protecting people, but at the same time we're helping the city and their resources,” Leanne Barbee said.

The East Central Ohio Decriminalization Initiative would eliminate fines, incarceration, probation or any other punitive or rehabilitative measure for possessing less than 200 grams of marijuana in the city of Newark.

Volunteers with the group have been pounding the pavement on this proposal for weeks.

"Certain cities, especially like Newark, actually have higher fines and penalties for marijuana possession than most of the other cities in Ohio,” Barbee said.

Under current law in Newark, if someone is caught with pot it would cost a maximum fine of $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

According to the Licking County Jail active inmate list, more than 50 people are behind bars on some kind of drug charge.

Ohio State law says anyone in possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana faces a maximum $150 fine.

Barbee says two other cities with similar initiatives have collected enough signatures to turn into city officials, in Logan and Bellaire, Ohio.

The grassroots group, The Athens Cannabis Ordinance has also started collecting signatures for a fall ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana.

East Central Ohio Decriminalization Initiative volunteers say some of them, individually, helped pass pot decriminalization last year in the city of Toledo.

Barbee says if the measure passes in Newark, her group will try and pass marijuana decriminalization in Reynoldsburg.

If the group turns in enough signatures by July 15, the Licking County Board of Elections has to review and validate them before a measure can be placed on the November ballot.