Today, our Columbus City Council passed marijuana possession penalty reforms! City Council issued a press release stating it was aiming to reduce inequities relating to medical and recreational marijuana in the criminal justice system.
Ordinances 2032-2019 and 2033-2019 passed unanimously, reducing penalties for marijuana and paraphernalia possession with city limits.
“This legislative package aims to create a more fair Columbus, especially for black residents disproportionately impacted by past drug policies,” said Council President Shannon G. Hardin in the press release. “We are not endorsing drug use. But while folks in some parts of town can legally profit from medical marijuana, it’s important we do what we can to help those folks in other parts of Columbus who face criminal charges, hefty fines, and barriers to employment for marijuana possession.”
Under the new law, penalties for low-level marijuana possession are $10 for less than 100 grams; and $25 for between 100 and 200 grams.
“We’re taking an important first step to help remove barriers to employment for folks in our community,” Hardin said.
In the city of Columbus, 62% of residents charged with possession of marijuana or paraphernalia are black men, and nearly half of all defendants were 25 or younger. Studies have shown that those with criminal records, even for minor offenses, earn far less and are unemployed at higher rates, according to the city council.
One of the components of the new legislation is that an arrest or conviction for a minor misdemeanor violation does not constitute a criminal record, according to the council’s press release. Therefore, residents do not need to include the violations on applications for employment, license, or other right or privilege, or made in connection with the person’s appearance.
As a result of the legislation, residents who have a criminal record because of low-level possession and other offenses can apply to have their records sealed by contacting Legal Aid Society of Columbus.