Cincinnati City Council member Charlie Winburn is pushing to erase low-level marijuana infractions from the records of nearly 10,000 residents. The City Council had an initial vote on Monday which favored the legislation 4-0 and is expecting the fifth and final vote needed to pass the law tomorrow.
Starting back in 2006, the city of Cincinnati was issuing harsher penalties than the state of Ohio for low-level marijuana possession. Yesterday, the Cincinnati City Council heard statements from the Cincinnati Public Defenders Office regarding the severe implications that marijuana penalties can bring to someone’s life. Public housing, access to educational programs, and career paths can all be derailed by a small marijuana infraction under current laws.
Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said that he would have not asked for tougher enforcement if he were in office in 2006. “We’re in support of anything that helps Cincinnati become a better city,” Blackwell said.
Charlie Winburn who is leading the effort to change city policy is aiming to reduce previous penalties to low level misdemeanors, effectively sealing those records. Once “sealed,” infractions in which offenders possessed less than 100 grams of marijuana would be inaccessible from background checks by employers, educational institutions, and some government programs.
“The trend in what we’re seeing across the country is that marijuana is being treated completely differently and it’s kind of sweeping across the United States of America,” said City Council Member Chris Smitherman. This is certainly evident with cities like Philadelphia opting to decriminalize marijuana as recent as last week. Look for more American cities to begin decriminalizing marijuana over the course of the next few years as low-level offenses are increasingly recognized as more harmful than helpful.