Marijuana Expungement

Cleveland officials have filed motions to have the municipal court expunge the criminal records of over 4,000 people with low-level (possession of 20 grams or less) marijuana convictions.

“Today’s event shows our commitment in the city of Cleveland to advancing criminal justice reform,” Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said. “But it also gives folks all across the city and across this region a second chance at getting a good job and the quality of life that they deserve.”

Officials reviewed records dating back to 2017. Going forward, prosecutors intend to review records from prior years to identify additional people eligible for expungement.

“City officials should be commended for taking this proactive stance,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Far too many citizens unduly carry the undue burden and stigmatization of a past conviction for behavior that many jurisdictions, and most Americans, no longer consider to be a crime. Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that officials move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

NORML’s Political Director and Cleveland native Morgan Fox added: “As a person who was arrested for cannabis as a young adult, I have seen first-hand how this can limit opportunities and stigmatize people for the rest of their lives, as well as the appalling racial disparities that continue to exist in both enforcement and sentencing. I am truly proud that my hometown is working to repair the harms caused by prohibition while the rest of the state considers making cannabis legal for adults this year.”

In 2020, members of the Cleveland City Council passed municipal legislation eliminating local penalties for possessing marijuana. Several other cities in the state, including Cincinnati and Columbus have passed similar local ordinances.

In recent months, state and local officials nationwide have moved to either expunge or seal the records of over two million people with prior cannabis convictions.

A summary of state laws providing for the expungement of marijuana convictions is available from NORML here.

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