New State Law takes effect, allowing Mayor Justin Bibb to continue with marijuana expungement reforms
April 4, 2023 — Cleveland — Today, Ohio Senate Bill 288 (SB 288) takes effect. The bill, which Mayor Justin M. Bibb and State Senator Nathan Manning advocated for, was signed into law this past January.
The new state law will help to remove the barrier of low-level marijuana convictions for people seeking opportunities at work or school. SB 288 will allow the City of Cleveland to move forward with its marijuana reform plans.
In 2022, Mayor Bibb took aggressive action capitalizing on legislation passed by President Joe Biden in 2020 regarding marijuana. Understanding that the legal system has multiple layers that prevent the average citizen from initiating engagement, Mayor Bibb sought to have the records of citizens who had been convicted of minor misdemeanor marijuana offenses sealed.
“We understand that citizens don't always want to engage in the criminal justice system, it's not always user friendly. And sometimes it's really hard for citizens to get access,” said Chief Prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan. “We can, as a city, do this on behalf of these residents who have been negatively impacted by historical inequities.”
Mayor Bibb’s expungement policies work in coordination with national efforts initiated by President Biden. In October 2022, the President announced his three-step plan to enact Marijuana Reform. He first pardoned all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana and then urged all governors to issue similar pardons. Further, he asked the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to expeditiously review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.
“President Biden’s Marijuana Reform efforts opened the door for us to make pivotal changes in our own policy regarding marijuana. At the end of the day, these policies are about doing right by our citizens and giving them more opportunities to thrive,” said Mayor Bibb.
In Cleveland, the coordinated work of Mayor Bibb and President Biden have resulted in 838 citizens receiving expungements to date. With the expanded ability to introduce expungements granted by SB 288, the City will continue efforts to seal the records of the over 4,000 cases that Mayor Bibb brought to the courts in April 2022.
“We will continue to spread the message that the City of Cleveland stands ready to help our citizens make positive steps forward in their lives,” said Mayor Bibb.
Moving forward, the administration will be attempting to notify by regular first-class U.S. Mail all persons whose records the City is seeking to expunge. The City will continue to file motions on behalf of those citizens.
While attending the US Conference of Mayors in January of this year, Mayor Bibb received a $10,000 grant to help finance filing fees associated with expungement and record sealing. With the goal of resolving all the cases by the end of the year, if not sooner, the City will work with the Cleveland Municipal Court and the Clerk of Courts to expedite and hear motions for expungements.
Mayor Bibb will also continue to work with local organizations to undertake one-day expungement clinics, in which those seeking expungements can file and close their cases without ever having to go to court.
“These are community members who want to change the current status of their life to something greater for themselves and for their children,” said Jordan. “Mayor Bibb pushing this initiative, being very transparent, and partnering with others is literally changing people's lives.”