City Council Passes Marijuana Reform
Passes Marijuana Reform
Package Reduces Penalties and Funds Record Sealing Program
[COLUMBUS, OH] Tonight, July 22, 2019, Columbus City Council
made a declarative statement – inequities relating to medical and recreational
marijuana in the criminal justice system must end. Ordinances 2032-2019 and
2084-2019, passed unanimously, reduces penalties for marijuana and
paraphernalia possession while funding a record-sealing program to be serviced
by the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.
“This legislative package aims to create a more fair Columbus,
especially for black residents disproportionately impacted by past drug
policies,” said Council President Shannon G. Hardin. “We are not endorsing drug
use. But while folks in some parts of town can legally profit from medical
marijuana, it’s important we do what we can to help those folks in other parts
of Columbus who face criminal charges, hefty fines, and barriers to employment
for marijuana possession.”
Under the new law, penalties for low-level marijuana possession
are $10 for less than 100 grams; and $25 for less than 200 grams, but greater
than or equal to 100 grams.
“We’re taking an important first step to help remove barriers to
employment for folks in our community,” Hardin continued.
In Columbus, 62 percent of residents charged with possession of
marijuana or paraphernalia are black men, and nearly half of all defendants
were 25 years old or younger. Studies have shown that those with criminal
records, even for minor offenses, earn far less and are unemployed at higher
rates. These are life-altering situations that can impact future employment,
housing and college opportunities for thousands of people in our community.
One of the key components of the new legislation is that an
arrest or conviction for a minor misdemeanor violation does not constitute a
criminal record. Therefore, residents do not need to include the violations on
applications for employment, license, or other right or privilege, or made in
connection with the person’s appearance.
“These changes can be transformative,” said Councilmember Shayla
Favor. “Criminal records impact employment, housing and college opportunities
for thousands of people in our community. I am proud that we listened to
community feedback and changed the code to keep people out of the criminal
justice system unnecessarily, and help those already there.”
As a result of the legislation, residents who currently have a
criminal record because of low-level possession and other offenses can apply to
have their records sealed by contacting Legal Aid Society of Columbus.
For more information, call 1-888-246-4420 or visit www.columbuslegalaid.org.
Columbus residents agree with these changes. Council conducted
two public hearings, dozens of stakeholder engagement sessions and a survey
which garnered 4,086 responses to ascertain locally-based insight.
THE SURVEY FINDINGS:
responses to the marijuana survey.
of residents surveyed believe medical marijuana should be legal.
of residents surveyed believe marijuana for recreational/personal use
should be legal
of residents surveyed believe the City of Columbus should reduce criminal
penalties for low-level marijuana possession.
of residents surveyed believe the City of Columbus should eliminate
criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession
of residents surveyed support the City funding a program to help residents
convicted of low-level offenses having their records sealed to increase
access to housing and employment opportunities.