Lawmakers have advanced comprehensive legislation, Senate Bill 288, that includes marijuana sentencing reforms. The measure now awaits action from Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.
Marijuana-specific provisions in the bill amend state law so that that the arrest or conviction for the use or possession of marijuana paraphernalia no longer qualifies as part of a person’s criminal record and doesn’t need to be disclosed “in response to any inquiries about the person’s criminal record.”
Other provisions in the bill provide pathways so that those with misdemeanor marijuana convictions (and/or those convicted of most misdemeanors and fourth- or fifth-degree felonies) can petition the courts to have their records sealed within one year. The legislation also provides pathways for county/local prosecutors to expunge minor misdemeanors or fourth-degree drug offenses in the court that issued the original sentence.
Even though state law defines marijuana possession as a fine-only offense, it remains classified as a ‘minor misdemeanor,’ which results in a criminal record. As a result, in recent years dozens of cities and towns in Ohio — including Athens, Cincinnati, and Cleveland — have enacted local ordinances removing all civil and criminal penalties related to cannabis possession violations.
“This legislation will make it so Ohioans are no longer stigmatized and disenfranchised by the collateral consequences of an arrest record for the possession of a plant or related paraphernalia,” says Jax James, NORML’s State Policy Manager. “People should not have their derailed because of an marijuana conviction.”
According to a newly released NORML report, 24 states have now enacted laws providing explicit pathways to either expunge (or otherwise set aside) the records of those with low-level marijuana convictions. As a result of these laws, NORML estimates that state and local officials have issued over 100,000 pardons and more than 1.7 million marijuana-related expungements since 2018.
For additional information on Senate Bill 288, visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center.’ NORML’s report, ‘Marijuana Pardons and Expungements: by the Numbers,’ is online here.