Group pushes ahead to expunge old pot crimes

Posted at 8:27 PM, Sep 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-22 20:27:31-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio group is moving ahead with its effort to create a way to purge old pot-related convictions made obsolete if marijuana is legalized this fall.

ResponsibleOhio is the campaign behind the pot legalization effort. It said Tuesday it's filing nearly 238,000 petition signatures Tuesday for the so-called Fresh Start Act.

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The proposal calls for reviewing sentences and expunging criminal records for people with previous marijuana convictions if their actions would no longer be considered illegal.

"Because of the current law, people lose their driver's license, families are separated because of  public housing accommodations, students lose their financial aid for college, and people can't get certain professional jobs," State Sen. Eric Kearney, D-Cincinnati said.

ResponsibleOhio needs some 92,000 valid signatures to get the issue before state lawmakers next year. Legislators would need to act within the first four months of 2016 or supporters could potentially put the issue to voters next fall.

ResponsibleOhio said it would continue to seek changes for pot-related convictions even if marijuana isn't legalized.

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In Cincinnati, Councilman Charlie Winburn got unanimous support from his colleagues last year for an initiative to help clear the records of up to 10,000 people convicted of minor pot offenses in the city.

While state law imposed a $150 citation for possession of less than 100 grams, city law made it a misdemeanor. That gave offenders a criminal record and also carried a fine of $250 and up to 30 days in jail.

Winburn had said some people found it hard to find a job with that charge on their record.