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Ohio Bill Would Allow Record Sealing, Expungement for Paraphernalia Convictions

On Nov. 30, the Ohio Senate approved Senate Bill 288 with a vote of 27-2. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nathan Manning, spoke to the Senate about his goals for this 975-page measure. “We have done a lot of work on this bill. And, really, the goal of this—we talk about criminal justice reform, we talk about tough-on-crime, soft-on-crime—really what we want to do is improve our criminal justice system and lower crime in our society and make our society a safer place,” said Manning. “And to do that, we did a lot of work here.”

Manning explained that “a lot of this bill is long-term, making sure that people that have entered our judicial system exit the judicial system as better people, and to lower recidivism rates, to improve their quality of life and to make sure that we have less victims in the future.”

SB-288 is one of many changes proposed. It would classify possession cannabis paraphernalia as a minor offense. “Arrest or conviction for a minor misdemeanor violation of this section does not constitute a criminal record and need not be reported by the person so arrested or convicted in response to any inquiries about the person’s criminal record, including any inquiries contained in any application for employment, license, or other right or privilege, or made in connection with the person’s appearance as a witness,” the current bill text states.

A person convicted of cannabis paraphernalia possession would have their records sealed after six months. Records would then be exempted from public view after three years. The current draft notes that the application fee would cost “not more than $50.”

SB-288 is now headed to the House of Representatives, where it will be further considered. On Dec. 21 the 134th congress will be over. If the bill fails to pass the House and is then signed by Ohio governor, it will expire. Mike DeWine would then have to bring it back in the next legislative sessions.

Ohio activists decided in May to defer a proposal on the ballot for legalizing adult-use cannabis until 2023. Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol sued the Republican state officials refusing to accept the ballot proposal. The 140,000 signatures collected by the organization were sufficient to make the measure eligible for the ballot. But, they will be able to retain those signatures through the litigation settlement.

“We expect that we’ll be able to do it,” Attorney Tom Haren said about the adult-use cannabis effort. “We’ll have staff get ready. Our intention is to give Ohio voters an opportunity to weigh in if the General Assembly continues to ignore them.”

It’s been two years since Ohio legalized medical cannabis, and as of March 2022 the state has collected $725 million in sales revenue. The state allows resident patients to use medical cannabis as a treatment for 22 conditions, but this number may change if the general assembly passes a current proposal if “the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana.”

Kentucky’s Governor. Andy Beshear recently signed an executive directive to allow medical marijuana for those who have purchased it in states that legalize medical cannabis. Ohio bordering Kentucky means that patients cannot legally buy medical marijuana in Ohio. This law only allows Ohio residents to obtain cannabis medicine. This leaves Illinois the only option. Missouri and Virginia may open their doors later, when they have implemented medical cannabis programs.