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Democrats urge Gov. DeWine to issue pardons for marijuana possession

October 7, 2022
Democrat Newsroom

COLUMBUS—State Reps. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) today sent a letter to Gov. DeWine urging him to immediately issue pardons for all existing State offenses of simple possession of marijuana. The letter comes after President Biden ordered by executive action this week to pardon all prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession and directed the Attorney General to develop a process for issuance of those pardons. 

“Ohioans are ready to legalize marijuana statewide, and it’s time for the governor and the legislature to take action before our state gets left behind,” said Rep. Weinstein. “In the meantime, issuing pardons for marijuana possession will immediately create a fresh start for the thousands of Ohioans who were affected by these outdated criminal penalties. Statehouse Republicans cannot keep ignoring this important issue.”

“Simple marijuana possession should not be a reason to serve jail time. I respect President Biden’s executive action, which is a step in the right direction to correct the failed approach on marijuana that is a main driver of mass incarceration across the nation,” said Rep. Upchurch. “It is no secret that Black men are locked up for marijuana offenses at far higher rates than other races. Issuing pardons for possession would be life-changing for Black and brown Ohioans across the state who have been denied housing and lost their livelihoods for this minor, outdated offense. While legalizing adult-use cannabis is the ultimate goal, we need this change now.”

According to the ACLU, Black people are nearly four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. Ohioans with marijuana possession offenses are often denied housing, employment, and educational opportunities. Pardoning these Ohioans will allow them to obtain good-paying jobs, advance in their careers, secure housing, and even receive funding for college. A blanket pardon from the governor could potentially impact tens of thousands of Ohioans. 

In the letter, Reps. Weinstein and Upchurch also encouraged additional action to legalize adult-use marijuana in Ohio. They are the joint sponsors of House Bill (HB) 382, which would allow adult cultivation and possession of marijuana and the expungement of conviction records for previous cultivation and possession offenses. 

The bill would also levy an excise tax of 10 percent on a marijuana retailer's or microbusiness's gross receipts from the sale of marijuana. 

HB 382 was introduced in July 2021 and still awaits a first hearing in the House Finance Committee.