CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Community leaders in the Charleston area have submitted an ordinance by petition to the city to create new city code for simple possession of cannabis.

The ordinance, otherwise known as, “The Sensible Marijuana Ordinance,” aims to create new city code that would make penalties as minimal as possible for the simple possession of marijuana, effectively removing jail time and court fees for adults arrested in Charleston for cannabis possession.

On Monday evening, a meeting of the Charleston Council Committee on Ordinance & Rules was held to discuss the two bills (Bill No. 8039 & Bill No. 8043). Bill No. 8039 sets out to amend the Municipal Code relating to jail time for the possession of controlled substances, making the first offense of simple marijuana a non-jailable offense.

Bill No. 8043 sets out to amend the Municipal Code by making the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana possession the lowest penalty by State Law.

According to Chairman Chad Robinson, the finished product of the ordinance is not here yet.

“We did lay it over until my next meeting, which will be next Monday night to work on a committee substitute, but I think that the finished version will be a good, workable document that we can take to full council,” Robinson said after the meeting.

A factor that the committee will be looking over is signatures received by Charleston Can’t Wait volunteers. According to City Charter, ballot initiatives allow residents of the city to introduce to the ballot by petition an ordinance or amendment, and for this year’s election, 1,518 signatures have to be collected equal to 10% of votes cast in the municipal election.

According to Corey Zinn, a supporter of the ordinance, he estimates that they have well over that 1,518 number.

“We estimated that over 2,000 were valid, and we expect maybe even more are, depending on people updating their registration, which we encouraged a lot of people to register to vote and update their voter registration as well,” Zinn said Monday evening.

Zinn also shared his thoughts on why he is supporting this ordinance with such passion.

“I would really like to see cannabis be decriminalized for everybody,” Zinn said. “I have pretty core beliefs in decriminalization in general for drugs and what I would call ‘non-serious crimes’ that aren’t harming others.”

While Zinn is confident in the advancement of the ordinance, Robinson said it has some issues.

“If it ever went to a ballot, the city could incur up to $100,000 in fees to have it on the ballot,” Robinson said. “Hopefully we can get to a compromise with Bill No. 8039 that would suffice the requests from the citizens who filed a petition.”

Last year, 173 arrests were made in the City of Charleston for simple possession of cannabis, which is the seventh most common reason for arrest.

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