Up in Smoke or Into the Drink

Cincinnati City Councilman David Pepper says he's never smoked marijuana, and he wants to increase the punishment for adults who do. Pepper, a candidate for mayor, has proposed increasing the pen

Graham Lienhart

David Pepper wants to make high times more scarce by increasing the penalty for possessing the sacred herb.

Cincinnati City Councilman David Pepper says he's never smoked marijuana, and he wants to increase the punishment for adults who do. Pepper, a candidate for mayor, has proposed increasing the penalty for possession of pot to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Ohio law treats possession of less than 100 grams as a minor misdemeanor, carrying a $150 fine and no arrest or jail time.

Pot is one of the few entertainment venues that seem to have found a better market in Cincinnati than in Northern Kentucky, according to Pepper.

"Our lenient law is an open invitation to sell, buy and smoke marijuana here rather than across the river, where there's actually real punishment for possession," he says.

The Ohio Patient Network is one of several organizations organizing opposition to the proposal. A letter from the group urges people to tell council to leave the law alone.

"Mr. Pepper said it is not about 'marijuana per se'; it really is about drug dealing," the letter says. "Well, if it's about drug dealing, then make the law about drug dealing, not possession of a plant that mother nature has provided that helps people stay alive during their cancer chemotherapy."

The Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., and Conservatives for Cannabis are also getting involved.

But it's not only people who smoke pot for medicinal or recreational purposes. Even anti-tobacco activist Ahron Leichtman questions the wisdom of raising the penalties on pot. In a letter to Pepper, he asks whether jail time and fines are more effective than drug treatment and urges him to consider the impact on jail overcrowding and other long-term policy implications.

The uproar in the Cleves Police Department hasn't gone away. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has completed an investigation of allegations of misconduct by Police Chief Mark Demeropolis. Earlier this year 11 of the 14 officers in Cleves signed a petition asking him to resign (see "Chief Problem," issue of Jan. 26-Feb. 1). Among the issues then were complaints that Demeropolis ordered officers to tow residents' cars without following proper procedure for dealing with junk vehicles. The sheriff's investigation includes an allegation that Demeropolis ordered an officer to throw into the river a gun that had been confiscated from a suspect.

"Investigation (has been) completed and turned over to the prosecutor's office for review and opinion," says Steve Barnett, spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Because the investigation is pending, Barnett says the report to the prosecutor can't be released.

Demeropolis says he doesn't remember the incident but gives a rather detailed account of what he says didn't happen.

"One of the guys found a piece of rusted metal in a car — no cylinder, no serial number," he says. "We couldn't even determine if it was an actual firearm. I said, 'It's garbage. Throw it away.' You couldn't even send anything to the lab to prove it was a real gun. It could have been a die-cast toy gun. It was found underneath the seat of a car. I told those detectives, 'I don't remember.' "

Several of the police officers who signed the petition against Demeropolis have found their assignments changed or have been disciplined for various reasons since then. The allegations investigated by the sheriff's office are the result of dissatisfied former cops, the chief says.

"All this is is some of the employees who have been terminated or have quit keep bringing things up that got nothing to them," Demeropolis says.

Messes and the Cause of Those Who Clean Them
State Sen. Mark Mallory (D-West End) tried to restore funding to libraries in the new state budget, but the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate rejected his amendment. Last week Mallory voted no on the budget, which passed 19-13.

"There is nothing in this budget that addresses any of the problems that are facing Ohio," he says. "The budget cuts millions of dollars from public libraries. It flat-funds education and fails to invest in higher education. It cuts hundreds of millions of dollars from cities and counties. After all of the cuts, the bill creates a new tax on the revenue of Ohio businesses that will affect the cost of all products in Ohio, and the bill raises several taxes that hurt everyday Ohioans."

The budget cuts state funding to public libraries by $37 million. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has already announced cuts in library hours. The Clermont County Public Library has enacted a hiring freeze.

The Justice for Janitors campaign holds a rally and march at 4:30 p.m. June 15 on Fountain Square (see "Dirty Little Secret," issue of July 21-27, 2004). Service Employees International Union, which is working to organize cleaning personnel in Cincinnati, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the firing of one of its supporters.

Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138)

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