Best Of 2020

Best Move for Local Criminal Justice Reform: Decriminalizing up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana

Getting caught with small amounts of marijuana by Cincinnati police once resulted in legal ramifications that could have serious consequences for finding jobs, housing and other vital needs. But in June of last year, Cincinnati City Council approved an ordinance that decriminalized up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana. Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman introduced that ordinance. The new law doesn’t include provisions for expungement for those already convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana — something several council members called for — but that could be coming eventually. Smitherman says the ordinance is a matter of fairness, especially for people of color who have been disproportionately cited under both a strict city law in force between 2004 and 2010 and the Ohio Revised Code. That can have big implications, Smitherman said. “Now someone applies to get a loan to go to college, or they apply for a job in the construction industry, and they’re choosing between someone who doesn’t have a drug conviction and someone who does,” he said. “We’re creating a permanent underclass.”