Officials with the city of Cleveland have filed motions to expunge cannabis convictions of more than 4,000 people. The convictions are for possession of 20 grams or less, dating back to 2017. If considered a minor misdemeanour, cannabis possession won’t create a criminal record.
Located in Ohio, cannabis in Cleaveland remains illegal. However, like elsewhere in the US, the laws are blurring and turning grey. In 2020, Cleveland City Council effectively decriminalized cannabis, paving the way to expunging cannabis convictions.
While federal and state laws still apply, in the city of Cleveland there is no local penalty for possession of cannabis under 200 grams. The local legislation ensured that low-level cannabis convictions wouldn’t carry a criminal record. Nor do the convicted need to disclose this charge on applications for jobs or licences.
Ohio’s Road to Legalization
Cleveland isn’t the only city in Ohio to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis. Everywhere from major metropolises like Columbus and Cincinnati to towns of 500 people like Trimble or Adena. If you’re caught with less than 200 grams, there is no misdemeanour charge. And now Cleveland residents will have the opportunity to expunge their cannabis records.
“This is the natural progression of what we (at council) wanted to see; first to decriminalize, then to have records expunged,” said a city councillor in a statement.
“We are seeing progress in Washington on this issue but it’s slow. There are immediate steps we can take right now in Cleveland to clear the names of over 4,000 residents who deserve a fresh start,” said Cleveland’s Mayor Bibb. “This is just one way we can make progress on criminal justice reform to balance the scales and remove barriers to employment and re-entry.”
How Expunging Cannabis Convictions Works
The motions are decided on an individual case-by-case basis. The presiding judges will hold hearings to make their rulings. There is the intention to review the cannabis conviction expungements that predate 2017.
Morgan Fox, a Cleveland native and the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement:
“As a person who was arrested for cannabis as a young adult, I have seen first-hand how this can limit opportunities and stigmatize people for the rest of their lives, as well as the appalling racial disparities that continue to exist in both enforcement and sentencing. I am truly proud that my hometown is working to repair the harms caused by prohibition while the rest of the state considers making cannabis legal for adults this year.”