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Marijuana campaign misses filing deadline

Council questions issues over proposed initiative

The petition drive to decrease penalties on the use of marijuana in Toledo missed the city’s deadline to get the question on the Nov. 4 ballot this year, council members were told Tuesday.

The northwest Ohio chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, turned in a sufficient number of signatures Aug. 4 to the Lucas County Board of Elections. The deadline for council to have acted on it is Thursday, but council doesn’t have a meeting scheduled until Tuesday.

Under the city charter, council is supposed to have 30 days to act on a citizen initiative for a proposed ordinance, either to vote “yes” and enact the ordinance, or vote “no” and allow the question to be decided by voters. If the 30 days pass with no action, the ordinance would automatically go on the ballot.

The issue was discussed in council’s agenda review meeting Tuesday.

Sponsors contend that Toledo’s drug laws come down too harshly on nonviolent offenders and ignore marijuana’s potential medical benefits. The initiative ordinance would reduce marijuana possession to a minor misdemeanor, subject to no fines, imprisonment, or any other penalty.

City Law Director Adam Loukx said some of the proposed provisions conflict with state law.

“I believe substantively it’s got problems,” Mr. Loukx said. He cited a provision prohibiting the imposition of a jail sentence for a fifth-degree felony involving marijuana.

“We can’t direct the Common Pleas Court how to sentence on a felony,” Mr. Loukx said.

Also discussed during the agenda review, and likely to come up for a vote on passage Tuesday, was an ordinance to settle a 2011 federal lawsuit accusing the city of excessive force, malicious prosecution, and false arrest. The ordinance would pay Nicholas Abalos $50,000 and Gustave LaRoy $7,500 to dismiss their case against three Toledo police officers.

A Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury found the men not guilty of assault on a police officer in 2009. The settlement does not require the city to admit wrongdoing.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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