Minor marijuana charges unequally affect adult Black males in Columbus
President Joe Biden is urging state governors to pardon people with marijuana charges on their criminal record after doing so on the federal level. That decision could have a greater impact on the Black community according to new research.
A study from Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement Policy Center found that Black residents in Columbus have been unequally charged with misdemeanor possession over the last two decades, 2001-2021.
The center pulled data from the Franklin County Municipal Court from January 2001 to August 2021. It found 22,000 unique Columbus residents with a marijuana possession charge.
That's only 3% of Columbus residents that have been charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession. But 15% of those are adult Black males in comparison to less than 3% of adult white males.
Gov. Mike DeWine's spokesman Dan Tierney said that the "situations described by President Biden is not really applicable to Ohio."
Ohio law does not permit blanket pardons. Ohioans must apply for those and they are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Jana Hrdinová, the administrative director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law co-authored the report and said legislators should still pay attention to clearing records.
"Even if you're just charged and even dismissed it remains on your criminal record that landlords can pull and can affect employers or landlords decisions to hire or let you reside in their housing," Hrdinová said.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein quit prosecuting for misdemeanor possession in 2019. The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center found that possession charges in Columbus are down from 60 per month, to about two per month from 2018 to 2020.
However, the city prosecutor's office can still pursue possession charges at the state level.
State penalties remain at $100 for possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana and $250 and up to 30 days in jail for possession of up to 200 grams.
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