Wednesday, April 13, 2022
As students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are continuing to "take over" my class through presentations on the research topics of their choice, I continue to post here background on their topic and links to relevant materials. The fourth of this coming week's presentation is focused on record clearing, and here is how the student describes the topic and provided readings:
Effective cannabis law reform cannot occur without also addressing the harm caused to those who have obtained criminal records due to harsh drug laws. For decades, people throughout Ohio and the rest of the country have been punished by the criminal justice system due to non-violent cannabis offenses. Thankfully, many states have legalized, or are in the process of legalizing cannabis. Cannabis legalization is an important step in cannabis law reform because it means people will no longer be charged for cannabis related offenses. However, legalization alone does nothing to help those who have already obtained cannabis related charges and convictions. The issue with having cannabis-related convictions is not just the fines or jail time that may come with it, but also the negative consequences of having a criminal record, which continues to affect offenders long after the case is closed. Cannabis legalization, therefore, must be accompanied by expungement reform in order to help put an end to the negative consequences that those with cannabis related criminal records are experiencing.
Thus, my presentation focuses on analyzing different expungement provisions that have been included in cannabis legalization laws. Although many states that have legalized cannabis have included provisions on expungement reform, some of these provisions are not as effective as they could be. Based on my research, I make the following recommendations for Ohio lawmakers to take into consideration when drafting laws on cannabis expungement. First, I recommend lawmakers to create an individual bill focused solely on cannabis expungement to avoid conflict with Ohio’s “One Subject” rule. Second, I recommend that cannabis records should be automatically expunged for any non-violent cannabis offenses as well as other offenses that can be tied to cannabis, such as paraphernalia and loitering offenses. Third, I recommend that there should be no waiting period for the expungement— all cannabis records should start to be expunged as soon as the law is passed. Lastly, I recommend that the bill should create an independent committee to carry out the expungements to avoid overburdening prosecutors and court staff.
J.J. Prescott & Sonja B. Starr, Expungement of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study 133 Harv. L. Rev. 2460 (2020).
Akua Amaning, Advancing Clean Slate: The Need for Automatic Record Clearance During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Center for American Progress (Jun. 25, 2020),
Mark Gillspie, Cleveland Seeks to Expunge 4k Minor Marijuana Convictions, Associated Press (April 7, 2022)
50-State Comparison: Marijuana Legalization, Decriminalization, Expungement, and Clemency, Collateral Consequences Resource Center (last updated Jan. 2022)