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Cincinnati Decriminalizes Pot Possession – Other Marijuana Laws Still Apply

How Will the New Cincinnati Pot Law Affect You?

Cincinnati City Council has voted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana within the city limits.

Replacing the city’s previous ordinance on marijuana, the new minor misdemeanor for possession of cannabis will carry no jail time, fines, or criminal record as long as you possess less than 100 grams (roughly 3.5 ounces). While marijuana penalties throughout the state have been eased in recent years, the removal of a criminal record for possession could be the biggest development, as a record of criminal drug use can have very negative effects for your job and your future.

What does this new law mean for residents and visitors of Cincinnati and the surrounding municiplaities, townships, and counties?

Beware:  The New Cincinnati Marijuana Law is Very Narrow

Ohio Marijuana Law:  A Quick Primer

According to current Ohio state law, pot possession in amounts of up to 100 grams is charged as a minor misdemeanor.  A minor misdemeanor offense carries a $150 fine, and a public record of the offense (but usually does not include jail time). 

An act that involves a “gift” of marijuana (transferring marijuana to another person with no exchange of money) can result in a drug trafficking charge. A first offense of 20 grams or less is charged as a minor misdemeanor. Furnishing drugs to a minor carries additional penalties. Subsequent offenses of pot-sharing, or offenses committed near a school or in the presence of minors are charged as misdemeanors of the third degree, carrying a maximum penalty of $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.

How is the new Cincinnati pot law different from Ohio Law?

The Cincinnati law lifts the penalties for marijuana possession in amounts of 100 grams or less.  (That’s enough marijuana for about 200 marijuana cigarettes.)  This means that the city intends to impose no fines and will not make a record of a drug offense for those found in possession of small amounts of marijuana.

There is no age specification of age restriction in the Cincinnati law.

What to look out for:

You could still face charges for marijuana possession in amounts greater than 100 grams.

You could still face charges in Cincinnati if city police opt to charge you under state law or if the law enforcement agency you are dealing with is the State Police or the Hamilton County Sheriff.  

You could still face charges for marijuana possession in areas close to Cincinnati but outside of municipality limits. 

There are still restrictions on public consumption of the drug.

Marijuana OVI laws still apply.  Stay away from traveling with pot in your vehicle or driving after consumption of marijuana in any form.

What does it mean now that Cincinnati Law and State Law are now in conflict?

Just as the conflict between Ohio and Federal Law causes some problems with the Ohio Medical Marijuana law, this new conflict between state law and city ordinance is likely to cause confusion for a lot of people.

When facing charges of marijuana possession, State Police and the Hamilton County Sheriff may be the law enforcement agents you are dealing with rather than city police. State and County law enforcement will likely charge offenders under state or county law, which still prohibits the use of marijuana recreationally.

According to a July 12, 2019 piece by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the policy of the Cincinnati police chief is to follow the new city law. However, since his law enforcement officers have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, Local, and State Law, it may be left to the officer’s choice whether to cite offenders under state law or city ordinance.

According to the same article, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil said Friday: “While Cincinnati council has voted to decriminalize marijuana possession in an amount less than 100 grams, at this time, the Ohio Legislature has not made a similar change. As sheriff, I am bound to follow and enforce the Ohio Revised Code and will continue to do so. However, I have directed my staff to identify potential implications of this recent decision regarding Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies performing duties within the city of Cincinnati. As national, state and local legislatures continue to discuss and determine the legalization of marijuana, my deputies will continue to serve Hamilton County by upholding their oath to enforce Ohio law.”

You may also be interested in: “6 Myths about Legal Pot Use in Ohio“.

Recreational pot use is still illegal in Ohio

Cincinnati has decriminalized pot use; it is still illegal.  How this will play out with local law enforcement remains to be seen.  There will be no fine, jail, or criminal record for those found with 100 grams of pot or less in their possession.

Ohio laws governing other amounts of marijuana possession remain in effect both within the city of Cincinnati and surrounding areas.

Although medical marijuana is now legal throughout Ohio, recreational use is not (What’s Legal in Ohio Marijuana Law?). While you might not find yourself in any serious trouble within the city of Cincinnati for having small amounts of cannabis products for personal use, you can still be charged with a minor misdemeanor in areas surrounding the city, outside the jurisdiction of the municipality.  

Ohio marijuana law may still be enforced anywhere in the state outside the city limits of Cincinnati. Other Ohio municipalities and townships may also pass their own ordinances imposing even stiffer restrictions and penalties.

Is smoking pot legal in Cincinnati now?


Public consumption of marijuana in Cincinnati remains illegal. This includes smoking marijuana in public.

Marijuana OVI Law Still Applies

Remember, even though marijuana has been decriminalized in Cincinnati, OVI laws within the city and throughout the state remain unchanged.

Even if you have not used marijuana in the last several days, you could come up positive on an OVI blood or urine test for marijuana or marijuana metabolite. (Driving Stoned: Ohio Marijuana OVI Law

This is true for any use of marijuana, including legal medical marijuana. (Medical Marijuana: OVI Trap?).

Continue to be careful about using marijuana in Ohio and even within Cincinnati city limits. 

Contact the law offices of Dearie, Fischer & Mathews, LLC if you have been charged with any marijuana or other drug related offense and are concerned about its effect on your record. Our attorneys have decades of experience in the local courts, in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas, and we understand the different and sometimes confusing marijuana laws throughout the state, and will help you protect your rights and your record.

For Warren County lawyer, Butler County lawyer, or Hamilton County lawyer, contact our Lebanon office at our office.

For Montgomery County or Greene County lawyer, contact our Beavercreek office at our office.

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