Sentence for possessing drug paraphernalia to be reduced

Adam McParlane

The sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia will change Friday when Senate Bill 337 goes into effect. Signed by Gov. John Kasich in June, the bill reduces the penalty of drug paraphernalia possession for the purpose of using marijuana from a fourth-degree misdemeanor to a minor misdemeanor.

Fourth-degree misdemeanors have a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and a $250 fine; minor misdemeanors are non-jailable offenses and carry a maximum fine of $150.

This change in law makes the charge for possession of drug paraphernalia equal to that of possession of marijuana. Miranda Webb, president of the Kent State chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, believes this change is a step in the right direction.

Counts of marijuana use and drug paraphernalia possession at Kent State from June 1, 2011 to May 31, 2012

Possession of marijuana: 83 arrests

Illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia: 79 arrests

Statistics from Matthew Radigan of the Kent State Police Department

“The big issue with the paraphernalia law — and why the people who supported it and pushed it through had said it’s kind of ridiculous — is that people are doing more time for the smoking device than they are for having the actual drug itself,” she said.

While this change makes the two laws more similar in severity, they still differ when it comes to repeat offenses. A person caught possessing marijuana or drug paraphernalia for the first time is issued a citation. Webb said the marijuana decriminalization has three strikes before jail time must be served, but the law regarding possession of drug paraphernalia has only one strike. Local defense attorney Troy Reeves said being caught possessing drug paraphernalia a second time can lead to jail time and a mandatory license suspension of six months to three years.

“Routinely, the first time around if you get caught with that, we have in the Kent Municipal Court a drug diversion program where you go to some classes and you test negative for marijuana twice over a 60-day period,” he said. “Second time around, though, not so lucky on that. They’re going to want some jail time.”

Students with drug convictions on their records can face serious repercussions from the university through expulsion. Students with drug convictions may also be ineligible for financial aid.

“I do know that on your financial aid form, if you have a drug conviction on your record, you’re ineligible for federal aid,” Reeves said. “That is a big thing parents are concerned about when their child gets a drug charge.”

This new law is not a complete overhaul, but enough has changed to allow for a second chance to anyone caught with drug paraphernalia.

“Usually it’s getting caught once that is all that it takes for students to be more careful,” Webb said. “It will teach students to be a little bit more careful while still giving them that first chance because everyone makes mistakes.”

Contact Adam McParlane at [email protected].