Ohio May Ease Expungement Process for Some Marijuana Convictions

January 01, 2024

Ohioans legalized marijuana when they approved Issue 2, leading to the law taking effect on December 7. Those with criminal records for minor possession violations may soon seal or expunge these records. This ability is one of several changes under consideration in the new law by the General Assembly. 

The Senate passed a bill to provide money for court training and new systems. Incorporating these improvements would also improve the expungement processing speed. Furthermore, the bill intends to collect this money through taxes on marijuana sales.

Though the Senate passed a bill earlier in December with the Governor’s strong endorsement, the House has not approved it. Instead, the House is considering a bill that does not include anything about expungements. Despite this delay, the Democrats claimed that expungements are a vital subject.

Ohio Rep. Dani Isaacsohn said that expungements are a priority because they are a need and a priority for his constituents. He also said that marijuana use is similar among the different racial groups and demographics. However, charges for marijuana-related crimes and convictions are racially disproportionate. So, he says that expungements are an issue of racial equity and justice.

Unfortunately, an effective automatic expungement process could be challenging to set up. According to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, the system cannot handle this; the large number of requests would cause significant complications. The new law also has a limit of 2.5 ounces of marijuana, whereas the limit in the criminal statute was for a maximum of 100 grams, which is over 3.5 ounces. This difference could cause problems for processing the expungements.

It could be some time before the Senate and House agree on changes to the new law. This expectation is because they cannot agree on several issues. Regardless of whether they reach an agreement, the law would still require individuals to attend a hearing with a judge to seal or expunge their records. Those who successfully expunge or seal their records must apply separately to do the same for other convictions.

It remains uncertain whether the legislators will agree on a bill. However, employers can help job applicants by considering which offenses should disqualify someone from a job. The best way to start a second-chance program is to partner with a background check company experienced in this area.

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