SSDP petitions to lessen marijuana paraphernalia consequences

Caitlin Restelli

Kent State’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy is working to create the misdemeanor crime of marijuana paraphernalia, making its consequences less drastic than the current paraphernalia laws.

Last Monday, SSDP informed Kent City Council that it is going to petition to put the initiative on the November ballot.

Hannah Brehm, SSDP member and junior history major, said she feels the state laws need to be changed. SSDP is “trying to make possession of marijuana pipe or rolling paper not ruin your life,” Brehm said.

The new crime marijuana paraphernalia would have the same consequences as a marijuana possession charge.

Currently, if people are caught with marijuana, they are charged with a minor misdemeanor, which is equal to a traffic ticket, said Tom Zocolo, former SSDP president and junior exploratory major.

If someone is caught with a smoking device, such as a pipe, rolling paper, bowl, etc., along with marijuana, the charge is drug paraphernalia, which is a class-four misdemeanor involving jail time.

“I don’t see why a pipe or something you use to do a drug should be a worse crime than the drug itself,” said Brehm.

If someone is charged with drug paraphernalia, it appears on his or her criminal record. Students are also required to report the charge when applying for FAFSA.

“It’s terrible. It’s something like that, that could disqualify you from free and equal access to education,” said Zocolo. “And put you in a lower economical social status for the rest of your life.”

Now that SSDP has notified Kent City Council, Kent’s charter states that the group must obtain 15 percent of registered voters from the November 2009 election to sign the petition.

According to Linda Marcial, director of the Portage County Board of Elections, there were 17,538 voters in Portage County at that time. Fifteen percent of those voters is 2,631, which is the number of petition signatures SSDP needs to acquire.

The petition signatures must be filed by Aug. 10, 2011 for the initiative to be placed on the Nov. 2011 ballot.

“There’s issues that are important to some and not important to others,” said Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala. “If any person is interested in putting something on the ballot, they should go through the process and do it, and then it’s up to the voters to say whether it’s going to happen or not.”

Contact Caitlin Restelli at [email protected].