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Ohio AG Fights New Toledo Marijuana Law

(CN) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine claims in court that Toledo's new voter-approved drug law lessening marijuana possession penalties encourages drug cartels to set up shop there.

Filed on behalf of the state Tuesday, DeWine's lawsuit claims that portions of the City of Toledo's "Sensible Marihuana Ordinance" are illegal. He asks the Lucas County Common Pleas Court to remove provisions from the law that drastically reduce the punishment for marijuana possession and trafficking crimes because they create "a significant discrepancy between the punishments imposed," according to the complaint.

Under the ordinance, which was passed by voters 11,663 to 4,911 in September, the punishment for possessing and trafficking marijuana is either a minor drug offense or a fifth-degree drug felony, and those caught would face no fines, jail time or probation.

The pot ordinance went into effect this week, according to a WTOL report.

The new law also reduces the penalty for being caught with controlled substances such as pain killers or steroids, and prevents police officers from reporting marijuana crimes to anyone other than the city attorney.

DeWine's lawsuit says that a "gag rule" would prevent police and the city attorney from reporting major drug trafficking crimes to the state, even if they seized thousands of pounds of marijuana.

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

The lawsuit cites Ohio's Home Rule Amendment, which gives municipalities some power in regards to misdemeanor crimes, but prohibits the changing of a felony to a misdemeanor.

DeWine said he is concerned "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," according to his press release.

The attorney general gave an example of a recent drug arrest made on the Ohio Turnpike, where two perpetrators could face up to 16 years in prison and a $30,000 fine after being caught with more than $1 million dollars worth of marijuana. If they were charged under the new law, they would face no fine or prison time, DeWine said.

DeWine seeks a court declaration that parts of the new ordinance are illegal. The lawsuit names the city and its law director Adam Loukx as defendants. Lucas County prosecutor Julia Bates and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp join DeWine as plaintiffs.

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