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Thousands of Ohioans Could See Pot Convictions Expunged Under Proposed Bill

By: Buz Deliere | December 29, 2022

In a shift toward criminal justice reform, state legislators have passed an initiative that could allow municipalities the power to clear tens of thousands of drug possessions from citizens’ records. If signed into law by the governor, this sweeping legislation has the potential for a long-term impact on communities across Ohio.

After Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb attempted to expunge the convictions of over 4,000 citizens convicted for cannabis possession in April, progress is now being made toward a new legal proposal that may allow his plans to come to fruition.

Bibb and Sen. Nathan Manning have teamed up on a groundbreaking proposal to make it easier for individuals affected by minor drug offenses in Ohio to clear their record of such charges.

The plan would allow cities and prosecutors the power to apply for expungements, which are sometimes difficult or expensive tasks even with legal assistance due to convoluted requirements and high fees associated with the process. This issue was highlighted firsthand by Rep. Bibb during her interview regarding this initiative's implementation at the state level.

Bibb stated in an interview, “We wanted to remove some barriers for folks trying to get a job or seek additional educational opportunities.”

Ohio citizens have been granted a second chance with legislation recently passed in the state's lame-duck session. With this ruling, county prosecutors and city law directors can now apply to expunge fourth-degree or minor misdemeanor drug offenses for individuals previously convicted by courts, offenders, as well as victims, must be notified of the process.

Ohio citizens may soon have the opportunity for record expungement of cannabis-related convictions. Those convicted of possession of fewer than 200 grams would qualify for a clean slate, creating an avenue to break cycles and access more opportunities in their future.

The Governor is poised to sign a historic criminal justice reform bill that has garnered tremendous support among lawmakers in the state - containing provisions for reduced sentences, sealed records, and more lenient underage drinking penalties.

In a move to combat the unfair incarceration of citizens in possession of marijuana, Senator Manning has introduced Senate Bill 288 – allowing those previously convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses an opportunity at clearing their names from criminal records. This bill comes as more and more states are rolling out programs for the medicinal or recreational use of this once-controversial substance.

The bill proposes to ease the process for clearing minor misdemeanors from individuals' records - applications for expungement could be submitted up to six months after final action is taken.

Mayor Bibb took notice of Birmingham, Alabama's recent move to pardon misdemeanor marijuana charges in the last eight months this 2021. Cincinnati is also keen on giving citizens a fresh start by means of bulk expungement - but they have yet failed to overcome legal obstacles blocking their path forward.

The proposed bill, if signed into law, would serve as a milestone towards erasing convictions held by those who have since persevered through the criminal justice system. It is expected to take full effect in 90 days; during this period Mayor Bibb intends to expedite requests for the expungement of records.


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