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Reefer Madness Takes Over City Hall

By Gregory Flannery · March 28th, 2007 · Porkopolis
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  While backing a new jail, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune (right) says we should quit locking up pot smokers.
Matt Borgerding

While backing a new jail, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune (right) says we should quit locking up pot smokers.



There's only one reason marijuana isn't legal in this country: No one has organized an effective movement to make it happen. A case in point is the last-minute lobbying last year by people opposed to Cincinnati's restrictive new marijuana ordinance. The campaign this week to repeal the law, enacted in March 2006 for a one-year period, shows a bit more political savvy, even if there is still a long way to go.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, the Southwest Ohio Green Party and the Hamilton County Libertarian Party have asked council to let a sunshine provision take effect when the law expires March 29. Radio personality Lynne Wilson (aka the Happy Hemptress) organized speakers to address council, opposing a proposal to make the law permanent. The Law Committee was expected to vote March 27, followed next day by the full council.

There are signs that pot advocates realize they've got a long job ahead of them. A new grassroots group, Citizens for a Safer Cincinnati (safecincinnati.com), has organized to oppose the city's marijuana restrictions. Wilson lost her show on WAIF last year during a purge of critics of the station's board of trustees but now operates HempRock radio (hemprock.com) and is organizing the Cincinnati leg of the Global Marijuana March on May 5 on the Hamilton County Courthouse steps.

The 2006 law makes possession of 200 grams of marijuana or less a first-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of a month in jail; a second offense entails up to six months in jail. Critics say the law isn't having the impact that supporters promised. The reduction in out-of-state residents buying pot in Cincinnati has been minimal, less than 1 percent, but costs to prosecute the cases have more than doubled.

Leading the effort to extend the law are Councilman Cecil Thomas, a Democrat and retired police officer, and Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz, a Republican.

Portune says some judges have privately approached him to complain that the tougher penalties are wasting court time that could be spent dealing with more serious crimes and are contributing to jail overcrowding. In a letter to city council, Portune wrote, "I have been approached by numerous members of the county judiciary who have complained that the legislation was unnecessary, inappropriate and a major contributor to current overcrowding."

Women Enquirer Readers and Other Marginalized Persons
If you're denied service or hassled by police officers because you're a Latino immigrant, the Cincinnati Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) wants to hear from you. The non-profit group has launched a 24-hour hotline at 877-77-LULAC to compile complaints of discrimination or racial profiling.

LULAC plans to investigate and report complaints to local, state and federal authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution. LULAC (lulac.org), which has 700 local councils, calls itself the "oldest and largest Hispanic membership organization in the country." It works to advance the civil rights, health and economic, educational and political interests of Latin Americans.

Is The Cincinnati Enquirer ready for a woman president? Perhaps more to the point, is The Enquirer ready for a woman reporter? A March 26 column by Malia Rulon of the Gannett paper's Washington bureau caught city council candidate Greg Harris' eye, and not just because of its report that Cincinnatian Rob Portman, the White House budget director, is being touted for Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008.

Harris wrote Rulon, pointing out a rather glaring gaffe. Her column took note of a local fundraiser for the front runner in the Democratic presidential field -- but never got around to uttering her name, only her marriage partner.

"Per your last paragraph, next time you might refer to the 'former president's wife' as Sen. Hillary Clinton," Harris' letter says. "I think she has earned her own name and identity."

More than 5,600 pinwheels ­ each representing a report of child abuse or neglect to Hamilton County's 241-KIDS hotline during 2005 ­ will be planted March 29 near the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Pinwheels for Prevention is part of Prevent Child Abuse Ohio's campaign to promote awareness and prevention of child abuse. Many people are unaware of how widespread the problem is. Sponsors of the Pinwheels event include Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, Hamilton County's Family and Children First Council, the Council on Child Abuse of Southern Ohio, the Cincinnati Police Department and the sheriff's department.



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