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City council still debating expunging marijuana convictions

A Cincinnati Council Committee will wait two more weeks before voting on an ordinance that could make it easier for people to expunge their criminal records relating to the city's now repealed marijuana possession law.

From 2006 to 2010 such convictions were misdemeanors in the city as opposed to the current minor misdemeanors.  The minor offenses are not part of a person's criminal record.  

Some council members have asked if the city can legally ask judges to ignore previous possession convictions when considering expungements.  

David Singleton is the Executive Director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, and he addressed that question during a meeting Monday at city hall.

"What we're talking about is not creating a new burden or new impairment, but actually undoing some harm," Singleton said.  "That is not unconstitutional under the State of Ohio's jurisprudence.  The Supreme Court has been crystal clear about that."

Individual judges would still have to decide whether to seal a criminal record.  

About 10,000 people are having trouble expunging their criminal records because of those city convictions.  Margie Slagle is a public defender and described the city’s proposed law this way.

"It clarifies that the conduct would have been a minor misdemeanor under state law, so it should be treated as a minor misdemeanor for purposes of expungement," Slagle said.  "I do not believe that judges would refuse to follow that guidance because the judge still has the discretion to make the determination whether or not to seal the record."