Drug Policy Press Release

09.22.15

ACLU Backs Fresh Start Act to Expunge Marijuana Offenses

Initiative Will Give Ohioans Second Chance
Statue of Liberty

CLEVELAND—Today, the ACLU of Ohio voiced its support for the Fresh Start Act, a statute initiative that will expunge the records of people convicted of marijuana-related crimes once State Issue 3 has passed, according to Executive Director Christine Link. The organization endorsed the marijuana legalization ballot initiative yesterday.

Media Statement: “ACLU Urges Yes on Issue 3”

“Each year, marijuana criminalization needlessly ensnares thousands of Ohioans, disproportionately people of color, in the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses,” Link said. “The personal cost is often significant and can linger for years. Being arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana can affect a person’s public housing and student financial aid eligibility, employment opportunities, child custody determinations, immigration status, and credit rating.

“When Issue 3 passes in November, many marijuana-related crimes will no longer be illegal. It’s time to do the right thing by giving those with previous convictions a clean slate and a fresh start.”

The Fresh Start Act would expunge or remove certain marijuana offenses, convictions, and citations from a person’s record. Currently, courts have discretion granting expungement requests. Under the Fresh Start Act, expungement would be mandatory for defined offenses and if an applicant’s interest is not significantly outweighed by the government’s need to maintain those records.

Additionally, Fresh Start would allow individuals with marijuana convictions, when seeking to have their records expunged, to petition the court to discharge or modify any sentences or sanctions currently being imposed. This will allow some to seek release from imprisonment and others to ask for relief from burdensome fees or financial penalties.

Link said, “In light of the extreme human and financial costs and unacceptable racial disparities of marijuana prohibition, Ohioans need to end the failed ‘War on Drugs’ by saying Yes to Issue 3 and legalizing marijuana statewide. Then the Fresh Start Act, if passed either by the Ohio General Assembly or as a ballot initiative, will give Ohioans with previous marijuana-related offenses a much needed second chance in life. Issue 3 and the Fresh Start Act are a win-win for Ohioans.”

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