Apr 06, 2022

On Wednesday, April 6, 2022, Mayor Justin M. Bibb joined Chief Prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan and Council President Blaine A. Griffin at the Justice Center to file a motion to expunge 4,077 records of marijuana convictions at the Clerk’s Office.

The motion filed at the Justice Center by the city prosecutor and law director today would wipe records dating back to 2017 for minor misdemeanor marijuana possession cases of 200 grams or less under Cleveland Codified Ordinance 607.02.

In early 2020, Cleveland City Council passed legislation (Ord. 902-2019) to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marijuana possession cases – to no fines or prison time - up to 200 grams. The legislation also ensured those convicted would not have a criminal record and they would not need to report the charge on applications for employment or licenses.

“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.

“As more and more states legalized marijuana, we wanted to position the city in that direction,” Council President Griffin said. “For me, this has always been about criminal justice reform.”

The Prosecutor’s Office has identified 455 individuals who have been mistakenly charged since City Council passed the ordinance in January of 2020, in addition to thousands of other cases eligible for expungement since 2017.

“Today, we are moving forward with a motion to expunge all cases of minor misdemeanor marijuana possession to honor the City’s legislation and eliminate criminal consequences,” Chief Prosecutor Jordan said. 

The motions filed with the Clerk’s Office today will be considered by Presiding Judge Michelle D. Earley and other judges in Cleveland Municipal Court. Expungements will take effect as soon as the motions are signed by the judges.

“We are seeing progress in Washington on this issue but it’s slow. There are immediate steps we can take right now in Cleveland to clear the names of over 4,000 residents who deserve a fresh start,” Mayor Bibb stated. “This is just one way we can make progress on criminal justice reform to balance the scales and remove barriers to employment and re-entry,” Mayor Bibb added.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve H.R. 3617, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which seeks to remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances and to eliminate federal criminal penalties. The motions filed today by Mayor Bibb, Council President Griffin and Chief Prosecutor Jordan show Cleveland is leading the way on criminal justice reform.

Council President Griffin also called on the state of Ohio to expand its medical marijuana laws to include recreational as well.