Cincinnati City Council will vote this week on whether to expunge the criminal records of anyone previously convicted of possessing less than 100 g of cannabis.

The Law and Public Safety Committee discussed the issue and related ordnance today, and the committee members voted unanimously to pass it on to the full council for a vote. If passed, it will pave the way for all nonviolent offenses involving 100 g of marijuana or less to be expunged.

The council would also set up a fund to pay for representation for anyone wishing to expunge a conviction, while a full-time role would be created to process applications.

On June 12, 2019, the city decriminalized possession of up to 100 g of marijuana, which is equivalent to 3.5 ounces. Yet the ordnance notes that it is harder for people previously convicted of such offenses to obtain employment, housing and education and “be productive members of our community”.

It now wishes to remove these barriers to employment, housing, and education by sealing the criminal convictions under Ohio Revised Code 2953.22.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, who is running for mayor, previously said that 86% of the 16,000 citations issued by Cincinnati for marijuana possession went to black people, most of them male. He argued that this creates a “permanent underclass”.

“Now someone applies to get a loan to go to college, or they apply for a job in the construction industry, and they’re choosing between someone who doesn’t have a drug conviction and someone who does,” he said.

Ohio is one of 16 states to decriminalize possession of recreational marijuana, along with Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. North Carolina, Mississippi, and Nebraska. It is fully legal in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and Alaska.

Many have launched expungement schemes, and Michigan is among the states pioneering a scheme that offers significantly discounted licensing fees for anyone planning to set up a marijuana business within 19 cities that were disproportionately affected by prohibition on cannabis.