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New pot legislation could mean Cincinnati hiring employees with marijuana records

Posted at 12:36 AM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 11:54:59-04

CINCINNATI — A controversial proposal floated before City Hall could bring changes to the way new employees of the city of Cincinnati are hired. If the ordinance is passed, misdemeanor possession charges would not be considered during the hiring process.

"That's where my heart is," the proposal's creator, Leon Washington, said. "It's for the next generation, you know?"

Washington got caught with a joint at age 17. He said the charge 15 years ago was something that held him back in life.

“For me to have a minor marijuana possession charge as a young adult, it really just demoralized me into (not) even wanting to apply to bigger jobs like that," Washington said. "I mean, I went through the whole thing. I was hired, and then they did that background check and down the hole."

Washington currently runs a nonprofit that gives kids free haircuts for reading. He said he's doing this to give the next generation a chance to move past their mistakes.

"This might not be able to help me, what I'm doing with this policy, but it's for sure going to help my nieces and nephews and little cousins that's going to come behind me," Washington said. "That's what it's about.

In June, city council passed an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana possession for less than 100 grams. It was grounded in similar concerns about how charges associated with the drug unfairly impact people of color, potentially limiting their opportunities for the rest of their lives.

"What I'm trying to do here is give people a shot at life," Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman said then. "Having small amounts of marijuana in our city will no longer put them in a position where they're facing 30 days in jail or a $250 fine."

Washington's idea won a vote by peers and three council members on the panel for Policy Pitch Night, an event that let Cincinnatians propose new pieces of legislation themselves. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said it will likely be referred to committee next week for further review and could pass out of committee and be voted on as early as next week.

"If you are currently using marijuana and you're not dealing with public safety or working with kids or operating heavy machinery, with us passing and saying less than 100 grams is no longer a crime, it shouldn't be considered at all," Washington said.