The Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 288 on Nov. 30 with a 27-2 vote. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nathan Manning, spoke to the Senate about his goals for this 975-page measure. “We have done a lot of work on this bill. And, really, the goal of this—we talk about criminal justice reform, we talk about tough-on-crime, soft-on-crime—really what we want to do is improve our criminal justice system and lower crime in our society and make our society a safer place,” said Manning. “And to do that, we did a lot of work here.”
Manning explained that “a lot of this bill is long-term, making sure that people that have entered our judicial system exit the judicial system as better people, and to lower recidivism rates, to improve their quality of life and to make sure that we have less victims in the future.”
Among many proposed changes, SB-288 would consider possession of cannabis paraphernalia a minor misdemeanor. “Arrest or conviction for a minor misdemeanor violation of this section does not constitute a criminal record and need not be reported by the person so arrested or convicted in response to any inquiries about the person’s criminal record, including any inquiries contained in any application for employment, license, or other right or privilege, or made in connection with the person’s appearance as a witness,” the current bill text states.
Those who receive a cannabis paraphernalia possession conviction would be allowed to seal their record from the public after six months have passed, and records would be eligible to be expunged after three years. The current draft notes that the application fee would cost “not more than $50.”
SB-288 now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration. The 134th congressional assembly will end on Dec. 21, and if the bill is not passed in the House and then signed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine then it will need to be reintroduced in the next legislative session.
Earlier this year in May, Ohio advocates decided to delay a ballot proposal for adult-use cannabis legalization to 2023. At the time, Republican state officials refused to consider the ballot proposal, so the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol sued them. The organization had already collected 140,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, but the lawsuit settlement will allow them to keep those signatures going into next year.
“We expect that we’ll be able to do it,” Attorney Tom Haren said about the adult-use cannabis effort. “We’ll have staff get ready. Our intention is to give Ohio voters an opportunity to weigh in if the General Assembly continues to ignore them.”
It’s been two years since Ohio legalized medical cannabis, and as of March 2022 the state has collected $725 million in sales revenue. The state allows resident patients to use medical cannabis as a treatment for 22 conditions, but this number may change if the general assembly passes a current proposal if “the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana.”
Recently, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order to allow medical cannabis if it has been purchased in a state that has legalized medical cannabis. Although Ohio borders Kentucky, patients would not be legally allowed to buy medical cannabis in Ohio because it only allows residents to purchase cannabis as medicine. Currently, this only leaves Illinois as an option, with Missouri and Virginia to possibly open up later on when their medical cannabis programs take effect.