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Columbus, OH 43215


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City Council Passes Marijuana Reform

City Council Passes Marijuana Reform

Legislative Package Reduces Penalties and Funds Record Sealing Program

MJ chart

[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

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.



  • 4,086 responses to the marijuana survey.
  • 97% of residents surveyed believe medical marijuana should be legal.
  • 93% of residents surveyed believe marijuana for recreational/personal use should be legal
  • 96% of residents surveyed believe the City of Columbus should reduce criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession.
  • 94% of residents surveyed believe the City of Columbus should eliminate criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession
  • 95% 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.