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Mayor Bibb, city of Cleveland ask court to expunge some 4, 000 low-level marijuana convictions....Cleveland City Council, in 2020 and via an ordinance sponsored by Councilman Blaine Griffin, eliminated jail and fines for possession of up to 200 grams

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Pictured is Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb (wearing eyeglasses) in the condensed picture in this article and as to the expanded version pictured are Cleveland Mayor  Justin Bibb, City Council President Blaine Griffin (wearing red tie), Cleveland Municipal Court Presiding and Administrative Judge Michelle Earley, Cleveland Law Director Mark Griffin, and Chief City Prosecutor Acqueelah Jordan and

By Kathy Wray Coleman, associate publisher, editor

CLEVELAND, Ohio-Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb joined Chief Prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan, Law Director Mark Griffin, and City Council President Blaine Griffin at the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland as Jordan and Griffin filed motions in the Cleveland Municipal Court clerk's office for judges to hold hearings to possibly expunge 4,077 records of low-level marijuana convictions dating back to 2017. Though guided by state law and other authorities, expunging a criminal record in Ohio remains at the discretion of trial court judges. Most of the people impacted by the motions filing are Black and Cleveland is a largely Black major American city of some 372,000 people. "Today, we are moving forward with [seeking to clear the names] of over 4,000 residents who deserve a fresh start," said Mayor Bibb, 34. "This is just one way we can make progress on criminal justice reform to balance the scales and remove barriers to employment and reentry." At least 455 of the cases include marijuana convictions that occurred since city council, in 2020 and per an ordinance sponsored by Griffin, eliminated jail and fines for possession of up to 200 grams, or just over seven ounces of marijuana. Griffin said that Cleveland needs to keep up with the times in terms of criminal justice reforms and associated public policy measures. "This is the natural progression of what we (at council) wanted to see, first to decriminalize, then to have records expunged," said Council President Griffin. "Before we passed the legislation, we put together a working group with activists and criminal justice experts." Under Ohio law, possession of marijuana of less than 200 grams is a misdemeanor, and more than 200 grams is a felony of varying degrees depending on the amount confiscated. Cleveland's minor misdemeanor ordinance was amended in 2020 to eliminate possible fines and jail time, including the $150 fine, and to make it applicable up to 200 grams. But regardless of whether a fine or jail time is eliminated regarding the conviction, there is often a stigma associated with drug possession on a criminal record as it sometimes interferes with employment opportunities, and educational, housing and other opportunities, which is partly why having a criminal record expunged is beneficial. The 13-member largely Black Cleveland Municipal Court, which also includes a separate municipal housing court, is led by administrative and presiding judge Michelle Earley, who is Black. How long a time period is needed for the judges to rule on the motions remains in question and until infinity is obviously not the answer as Cleveland judges traditionally have difficulty managing the dockets of cases that are routinely before them. Chief City Prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan, has said that "our judges are very busy and we are going to be very supportive of whatever time they need.” Judges in Ohio, however, are subject to the criminal, civil and local rules of procedure, appellate and Ohio Supreme Court rules, as well as the Ohio Rules of Superintendence, among other authorities. Typically it should take up to six weeks to get a record expunged but since the pandemic the judges dockets have been moving slowly and some cases can linger on for years. Ohio’s new law on expunging criminal records became effective as of April 12, 2021 and under such law a person, absent a felony sex crime, crime of violence, DUI/OVI offense, or first, second- or third-degree felony on a his or her criminal record, qualifies for the unlimited expunging of criminal records. Other convictions qualify under limited circumstances by statute. While medical marijuana is legal in Ohio, recreational marijuana remains illegal. The recreational use of cannabis, however, has been legalized in 18 states, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and D.C, and another 13 states and the U.S.Virgin Islands have decriminalized its use. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve H.R. 3617, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, congressional legislation that would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances and eliminate federal criminal penalties. It is currently before the U.S. Senate for possible approval. Mayor Bibb said that the city of Cleveland wants 4,000 or so misdemeanor marijuana criminal records expunged by the majority Black judges in Cleveland's municipal court and that the request is timely following passage last week by the U.S. House of the MORE Act, a bill that awaits approval in the Senate. If it is ultimately passed by Congress it would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances and eliminate federal criminal penalties. "The motions filed today show that Cleveland is leading the way on criminal justice reform," said Mayor Bibb, the city's fourth Black mayor, and a progressive mayor who won a nonpartisan mayoral election last November over then city council president Kevin Kelley by a landslide.

By Kathy Wray Coleman, associate publisher, editor. Coleman is a seasoned Black Cleveland journalist who trained at the Call and Post Newspaper for 17 years and an experienced investigative and political reporter. She is the most read independent journalist in Ohio per and, the most read Black digital newspaper and Black blog in Ohio and in the Midwest. Tel: (216) 659-0473. Email: We interviewed former president Barack Obama one-on-one when he was campaigning for president. As to the Obama interview, CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM, OHIO'S LEADER IN BLACK DIGITAL NEWS.

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 April 2022 22:02

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