State of Ohio, Lucas County officials file lawsuit to challenge Toledo Marijuana Ordinance


TOLEDO, Ohio —Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that the State of Ohio has filed a lawsuit against the City of Toledo over certain provisions in the “Sensible Marijuana Ordinance” passed in last month’s Toledo municipal primary.

The lawsuit, which lists the State of Ohio, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp as plaintiffs, was announced by DeWine at a news conference surrounded by law enforcement officials.

“This ordinance encourages drug cartels to set up marijuana distribution operations in Toledo with less fear of prison or penalties,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Absent legal action, it is not hard to imagine international drug rings making Toledo their regional base of operations.”

The lawsuit, filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, challenges four provisions of the ordinance as unconstitutionally conflicting with general Ohio laws:

A “gag-rule” which prohibits Toledo Police and the Toledo Law director from reporting any marijuana crime to any authority other than the city law director. This would prohibit crime reporting to county agencies, such as the prosecutor and children’s services agencies, as well as all state agencies.

Provisions which make felony marijuana possession a negligible municipal offense.

Provisions which make felony marijuana trafficking a negligible municipal offense.

Provisions which decriminalize illegal possession of Schedule III, IV, and V drugs, including certain dosages of prescription opiate painkillers, such as hydrocodone and morphine; anabolic steroids; and dangerous depressants, such as Xanax and Valium.

DeWine stated his concerns that the ordinance reduced felony marijuana trafficking to zero prison time and zero fines, regardless of the amount of marijuana involved or even where the offense took place, such as at a school.

DeWine noted a recent Ohio State Highway Patrol arrest of two Washington state residents on the Ohio Turnpike in Lucas County. The two defendants were charged with trafficking 223 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $1.13 million. Under Ohio law, they face a mandatory prison sentence of up to 16 years in prison and up to a $30,000 fine. If they had been charged under the new Toledo Ordinance, neither would serve prison time nor pay a fine for such a crime.

The lawsuit seeks to have the conflicting provisions invalidated. The lawsuit also seeks a preliminary injunction so that Ohio law prevails while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

Staff report

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