State ex rel. Sensible Norwood v. Hamilton County Board of Elections

69 N.E.3d 696 (2016)

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State ex rel. Sensible Norwood v. Hamilton County Board of Elections

Ohio Supreme Court
69 N.E.3d 696 (2016)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Sensible Norwood (plaintiff), a political action committee, was formed to support a local initiative proposing the decriminalization of marijuana and hashish in the City of Norwood (the city). The proposed ordinance would modify the city’s marijuana and hashish laws by defining the possession and use as a fifth-degree felony but prohibiting any associated fines or penalties for offenders. The proposed ordinance would also stop city law enforcement from acting under the existing city law to suspend driver’s licenses, seek asset forfeiture, or report offenders to any authority other than Norwood’s city attorney. In July 2016, Sensible Norwood submitted the proposed ordinance initiative petition, with all required signatures, to the Hamilton County Board of Elections (defendant) for inclusion on the November 2016 general election ballot for the city. The Board of Elections refused to place the initiative on the ballot because the proposed ordinance (1) attempted to place administrative restrictions on existing city laws; and (2) defined felony offenses, which was beyond the scope of the city’s legislative authority. In Ohio, only the state can define felony offenses. Sensible Norwood filed a writ of mandamus to force the Board of Elections to include the proposed initiative on the November 2016 ballot, arguing that the proposed ordinance was legislative, not administrative, because it would repeal and amend the city’s existing laws criminalizing the possession and use of marijuana and hashish.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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