This year’s Super Bowl is being referred to in some circles as the “Weed Bowl” because the two contestants; the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, represent the first two states to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana. A number of states, twenty, as well as the District of Columbia, permit medical marijuana use, and nine states have legislation pending to likewise permit possession of cannabis for medical purposes.
So what about our state, the great State of Ohio?
Mary and Jane (not their real names) are registered nurses at a local hospital. Their jobs are stressful and their hours are long. On their days off, they like to relax by going out to a local establishment that features good food, good drink, and good jazz. Last Saturday they decided to go out and celebrate Jane’s promotion to Charge Nurse of her surgical unit. On the way to the club, Mary remarked to Jane that she recently saw her old college roommate, Della. Della was a bit of an old hippy and still smoked pot, something Mary and Jane had not done in years. Della gave Mary a “joint” to be smoked on a special occasion. Mary felt that Jane’s promotion and their girl’s night out was just such an occasion.
Jane protested at first, but with a little arm twisting agreed that getting high might enhance the evening. They arrived at the club and found a good seat in the back where they could hear the band, but still enjoy chatting with each other. They ordered a couple of drinks, some appetizers and listened to the first set. When the band took a break Mary asked Jane if she wanted to partake of their party favor. Jane said why not.
The ladies went to Mary’s car and lit up the marijuana cigarette. They knew that smoking marijuana is not that big of a deal, and were not particularly concerned about the ramifications if someone detected them. They cracked their windows so as not to fill the car with smoke.
Unfortunately, there had been a rash of break-ins at businesses in the neighborhood where the club was located, and police had stepped up patrols. A young officer was on foot patrol when he smelled the unmistakable odor of pot. Mary never even saw him as he approached her window, and she was taking one last hit on the joint. The officer was almost apologetic; he told Mary that he had no choice but to cite her. He assured her, however, that it was not that big of a deal, that she could simply pay go to court and pay a fine, much like a traffic ticket. Mary was embarrassed but relieved that the matter was not more serious, and the ladies continued to enjoy their night out.
The young police officer gave Mary bad advice. He was correct that she could simply pay a fine. Possession of less than one hundred grams, about three and one-half ounces, is a minor misdemeanor under Ohio law; much like a traffic citation. The maximum penalty is a fine not to exceed $100.00. Furthermore, the statute specifically state that:
Arrest or conviction for a minor misdemeanor violation of this section does not constitute a criminal record and need not be reported by the person so arrested or convicted in response to any inquiries about the person’s criminal record, including any inquiries contained in any application for employment, license, or other right or privilege, or made in connection with the person’s appearance as a witness.
However, unlike a speeding ticket, Possession of a Controlled Substance (the actual name of the offense under Ohio law) has some consequences that a far more serious. First, any judge who convicts someone of minor misdemeanor marijuana possession must suspend that person’s driver’s license for a minimum of six months up to a maximum of five years! This penalty must be imposed regardless of the fact that the person may have not been operating a motor vehicle at the time of the offense. Second, if the person convicted is a professionally licensed person, such as a Lawyer, Pharmacist, or Registered Nurse, the court must send a certified copy of the judgment entry of conviction to the regulatory or licensing board or agency that has the administrative authority to suspend or revoke the offender’s professional license.
As the law stands today in Ohio, Mary’s nostalgic trip back to her college days of smoking pot with her girlfriends will cause her to lose her driver’s license, and perhaps her profession. If you are charged with minor misdemeanor possession of marijuana in Ohio, do not take the matter lightly, retain competent legal counsel so that you can avoid these unforeseen serious consequences.