Council Considering Marijuana Possession Expungement Ordinance

Sep 16, 2019

Cincinnati could soon have a program to help people clear their criminal records if they were charged with having small amounts of marijuana.  

The full council could vote on the expungement ordinance Wednesday.

Law and Public Safety Committee Chairman Christopher Smitherman supports it.

"We are transitioning and placing the responsibility of expungement on the city of Cincinnati," Smitherman said. "And so we want our city solicitor's office to have a dedicated person working on expungement for the citizens."

Smitherman says convictions for small amounts of marijuana can prevent people from getting jobs.

What the proposed ordinance would do:

  • For a period of three fiscal years beginning with fiscal year 2021, the council shall annually appropriate an amount determined by the city manager to be sufficient to fund expungement representation services for individuals who have been charged by the city of Cincinnati and convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses involving 100 grams or less of marijuana who may be eligible to have their record sealed under Ohio Revised Code Section 2953.32.  The appropriation shall include the funding of one new full-time position to manage the expungement effort.  Council may not reduce the overall budget to offset or account for the addition of this new full-time employee.
  • The city shall engage third party organizations to represent individuals who have been charged by the city of Cincinnati and convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses involving 100 grams or less of marijuana in proceedings to have their record sealed under Ohio Revised Code Section 2953.32. The city manager shall administer these contracts, including monitoring the work done by contractors.
  • The city manager shall be responsible for identifying individuals who were charged by the city of Cincinnati and convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses involving 100 grams or less of marijuana who may be eligible to have their record sealed under Ohio Revised Code Section 2953.32.  The city manager shall notify such individuals of their potential eligibility and of the availability of city-funded expungement representation. The city manager may delegate these responsibilities to the appropriate city department.
  • The city manager shall provide a report to the council on the number of eligible individuals identified and the number if expungements funded after one year, and every two years thereafter.

Smitherman said this proposed legislation only involves expungement for those convicted of having small amounts of marijuana.

"This is not expungements for cocaine. This is not expungements for crack. This is not expungements for a gun, a gun charge," Smitherman said. "This is specifically related to small amounts of marijuana."

Even if city council approves the ordinance, Smitherman is pledging to collect petition signatures for a ballot measure to make expungement part of the city charter.  He said that way the measure is protected in the event a future mayor and city council want to rescind the expungement ordinance.

Earlier this year council voted to decriminalize the possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana in the city, and the city solicitor's office is no longer prosecuting such offenses.