Cincinnati Passes Ordinance Sealing Low-Level Marijuana Convictions

Written By: Ishton W. Morton – September 18th, 2019

Republican Amy Murray as the lone dissenter

Because a majority of members on Cincinnati City Council are facing term-limit and cannot run for re-election, there may be those whose interest on important issues facing many Cincinnati Communities are rapidly diminishing.

However, it is always in the best interest of the citizenry to make a mental note of those who best represent their interest.

As a general rule politicians believes that voters generally suffers from voters inattentiveness, or extreme short-term memory on political issues.

On Wednesday, September 18th, 2019 Cincinnati passes ordinance sealing low-level marijuana convictions by an 8 to 1 vote with Republican Amy Murray as the lone dissenter, council adopted the ordinance which will take effect within one month.

City lawmakers are motivated to seal those records so they cannot be used against anyone who is making application for employment, student loan, license, or housing opportunity.

It is enormously clear that a majority of Cincinnati Council has approved this new law in efforts to remedy a bad situation. They’ve added, low-level drug possession should not carry a lifelong stain and be barrier to employment or loans.

Cincinnati Vice-Mayor Christopher Smitherman

However, from the floor of City Council, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman had this to say, “This is an X-factor because we don’t know how many people have been impacted by this. We don’t know what the cost is going to be.”

Accordingly, this a jointly led effort by Smitherman an independent, Mann a Democrat and Jeff Pastor a Republican.

Amidst the discussion Pastor had this to say, “I’ll tell you now the vast majority of folks in my party do not support the decriminalizing of marijuana, that sort of thing.”

He continued to say; “However, they do support folks making billions of dollars off of marijuana that was just illegal.”

However, its implementation will not be immediate. There will be considerable research and work ahead of any actual sealing of criminal records. Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction.

City Council Member Jeff Pastor

Moreover, the new city law means most eyes will no longer be able to see an individual’s pot convictions for 100 grams which is equivalent to three ounces or less.

Furthermore, it’s extremely imperative to note there is a distinction between expungement of a record and a sealing of a record.

Meanwhile, the legal effect of an expungement ordinarily means that an arrest or convictions “sealed,” or erased from a person’s criminal record for most purposes. After the expungement process is complete, an arrest or a criminal conviction ordinarily does not need to be disclosed by the person who was arrested or convicted. For example, when filling out an application for a job or apartment, an applicant whose arrest or conviction has been expunged doesn’t need to disclose that arrest or conviction.

However, in most cases, no record of an expunged arrest or conviction will appear if a potential employer, educational institution, or other company conducts a public records inspection or background search of an individual’s criminal record.

Record sealing is the practice of sealing or, in some cases, destroying court records that would otherwise be publicly accessible as public records. Generally, record sealing can be defined as the process of removing from general review the records pertaining to a court case.

Cincinnati Council members David Mann

Nonetheless, the former suggests an erasure, a wiping clean as if the conviction or allegation never existed in the first place.

The latter suggests a retention of the record itself, but no access to the information except in certain cases.

According to Ray Faller who heads the public defender’s office, “You cannot get an OVI sealed. You cannot get a first-degree domestic violence sealed.” However the issue of first-degree domestic violence has no consideration under the ordinance to sealing low-level marijuana convictions passed by Cincinnati.

Faller  continued to explain, “They’re not expunged in the sense they’re shredded. It’s like they’re put in a locked cabinet.” Really!!

Nonetheless, Faller called it a good idea in theory but wondered about the mechanics of it.

He added; “The city itself can’t expunge the records. Somebody’s got to go into court. I don’t know if they’re going to have people do it pro se by themselves or if they’re going to hire attorneys for people to do it. I just don’t know how that’s going to be carried out.”

This is true! In the common law legal system, an expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, making the records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories.

Accordingly, the city administration will hire a third party to identify who may be eligible for expungement preceding.

Then those people will be contacted and it’ll be up to them to decide if they will apply. If they do, they’ll have to go to a court for consideration by a judge.

According to Council Member David Mann who is an attorney says, the records will still exist and in certain situations could be seen by others.

Mann added “The record is sealed and in some circumstances it can be reopened.”

Noteworthy, “For instance, boards of education are entitled to have the information because there’s a special concern about those who come into contact with children. We don’t know yet. This is the ordinance that says please do this, city administration. We look to the city administration to hire an employee to establish a process.”

There’s a mountain of research ahead and the process will begin next summer and likely affect thousands of people although a hard, accurate count is unknown right not.


Author: Ishton W. Morton

Formerly, Ishton W. Morton is an educator and promoter for community advocacy which includes creating programs and services, developing partnerships, and changing public policies, laws, and practices to improve the lifestyle of all people I’m still having an overwhelming desire to provide an Outreach Continuing Education process through this media.