ResponsibleOhio, the organization attempting to legalize a statewide cannabis industry in the November election, announced earlier this week that it now has enough signatures for a separate initiative that would clear the records of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses.
The proposal is called the Fresh Start Act. It aims to expunge the records of those offenders caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis as well as those busted for home cultivation and paraphernalia. The group says it intends to put the issue in the hands of the state legislature in 2016, rather than push for another constitutional amendment.
In going this route, lawmakers will be forced to either pass or reject the issue within four months, or else forfeit the decision to the voters.
Some reports indicate ResponsibleOhio already has more than the required 92,000 signatures to get the ball rolling on this issue. And though they claim they outcome of the November election will not deter them from pressing forward with their latest plan, it seems likely that the group will wait to see how they fare in the polls before taking another leap.
Nevertheless, the proposal presents a level of cannabis reform that ResponsibleOhio executive director Ian James believes, with or without a legal framework in place, is important to see through.
“This allows people who’ve been convicted of offenses that are no longer illegal an ability to move forward, an ability to get expungement and sentencing review,” said James. “We’ve seen people who are shackled to their past, be that from a misdemeanor for having as little as one joint in their pocket and they lose their driver’s license so they can’t get to work, or they lose their student financial aid so they can’t go to college, or they lose the ability of ever having employment licensing, such as plumber, Realtor, or even a nail tech or barber.”
Opposing forces believe ResponsibleOhio is merely using the initiative to further bamboozle the voters. The group’s controversial Issue 3 is one that even some cannabis activists have not been able to get behind. Most of this has to do with the group’s business plan and their intentions to monopolize the state’s marijuana market.
Yet, all arguments aside, ResponsibleOhio is ultimately proposing putting an end to prohibition, which is the aspect of this campaign that has most citizens on the fence. Regardless of what happens this November, it has been made clear in recent weeks that Ohioans support eliminating criminal penalties for pot possession.
Do you think cannabis-related offenses should be expunged from criminal records? Tell us in the comments.