Undoing consequences of now repealed Cincinnati marijuana ordinance

Sep 29, 2014

Cincinnati Council will vote on a resolution this week asking Ohio lawmakers to exclude marijuana possession convictions when considering whether people should have their criminal records expunged.

From 2006 to 2010, people in Cincinnati who had possessed even small amounts of marijuana were charged with misdemeanors that now appear on their criminal records. That was stricter than state law, which resulted in a citation and no records.

Those city misdemeanor convictions are making it difficult for some people to expunge, or clear, their criminal records.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said it is an economic death sentence, "Barring them from being able to engage in professions and vocations and activities that they would like to be involved in and should have the privilege and the opportunity of being involved in."

Christopher Smitherman said he supports efforts to get laws changed.

"That there are people that cannot move forward in their life, they cannot get gainful employment because of a joint," Smitherman said.

In two weeks Council could vote on an ordinance asking Hamilton County judges to ignore city convictions from 2006 to 2010 when determining expungement cases.

Some council members and city lawyers are not sure Council can undo the penalties for the 2006 law, which was repealed in 2010. The interim city solicitor said it likely will be an issue decided in court.

Council Member Yvette Simpson said the city needs to proceed carefully.

"I think we all agree with it in spirit. I think we all believe it is the right thing to do," Simpson said. "We just want to make sure that we do it in a way that doesn't lead to more confusion and lead to more litigation."

The full Council is expected to vote Wednesday on the resolution. The Law and Public Safety Committee will likely discuss the ordinance during a meeting on Oct. 13.