September 1, 2014
To the editor:
Denison students should know that Granville Village is considering making its already tough marijuana possession laws even more severe at a meeting Wednesday night.
Granville already punishes possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana as a third degree misdemeanor. This is much harsher than state law, which classifies possession as a minor misdemeanor, like a traffic ticket.
The difference is huge. It makes students vulnerable to a $500 time and jail time. Even more damaging, third degree misdemeanor convictions give people a permanent criminal record – unlike state law – that makes it hard or impossible to become a licensed professional, such as a teacher, doctor, nurse, lawyer or accountant.
The Granville Village staff wants to preserve this harsh punishment while making two changes to toughen the law. The Village staff wants the law to:
- Require a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension for everyone caught with pot – even if the offense had nothing to do with driving or a car. (The penalty is now optional, not required.)
- Let Granville police arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients. (Currently, Granville law protects patients who have a written recommendation from a physician.)
In reality, Denison students don’t have much to worry about. You are privileged. In practice, Granville drops charges against students, makes you take a drug education class and doesn’t brand you with a criminal record.
The harsh punishments are reserved primarily for poor people, especially people of color. Nearly 30% of those prosecuted to the full extent of the law over the last five years were African American. (Granville is 2% black.) More than half of those fully prosecuted were from Newark, the low-income next door.
Of the 32 Denison students charged with marijuana possession over the last five years, only two have been convicted – a black student from Boston, who graduated in 2013, and a white student who avoided more serious drug charges.
It would be great if Denison students would let Village officials know their views about whether marijuana laws should be toughened.
The Village Council meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 3, at 141 E. Broadway (across the street from Whit’s, at Village Hall.)
327 E. Broadway
Granville, OH 43023