Law director says officers will arrest, office will prosecute with state law

NEWARK, Ohio — Officials in a central Ohio city where residents voted to eliminate criminal penalties for having small amounts of marijuana say they’ll continue to charge and prosecute violators under state law instead.

This month, Newark voters approved decriminalizing possession of less than 200 grams of marijuana, about 7 ounces. The new law says having that amount is a minor misdemeanor that’s not subject to fines, jail or probation.

But under Ohio law, such marijuana possession remains a minor misdemeanor that could result in a fine and loss of driving privileges.

Newark’s law director says the local law gives authorities an option in pursuing such cases, but they’re not changing their approach.

Supporters of the new law had argued it would allow police to concentrate on the city’s heroin and opiate problem.

Last week, the police chief of Bellaire – which passed a similar decriminalization measure – told media outlets that his officers would continue to arrest those possessing marijuana under county and state law.