The Cleveland, OH skyline. Credit: Eric Drost / Flickr

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb wiped 4,077 records clean of cannabis misdemeanors last week following a push from local activists. 

Bibb and other Cleveland officials filed a motion on Apr. 7 for the Cleveland Municipal Court to expunge the arrests and convictions of 4,077 people dating back to 2017 of low-level cannabis convictions for those who possessed 20 grams or less. 

“There are immediate steps we can take right now in Cleveland to clear the names of over 4,000 residents who deserve a fresh start,” Mayor Bibb said in a statement addressed to the City Council. “This is just one way we can make progress on criminal justice reform to balance the scales and remove barriers to employment and re-entry.”

Although Cleveland voted to decriminalize cannabis offenses in January 2020, records continued to remain in place for many. Cleveland’s Prosecutor’s Office identified 455 individuals who have been mistakenly charged since Cleveland City Council originally passed the ordinance in 2020, in addition to thousands of other cases eligible for expungement since 2017.

Ally Reaves, cannabis advocate and founder of Midwest CannaWomen, said that she worked with cannabis advocacy organization Sensible Cleveland since 2017 to get something like this off the ground.

Reaves said that the group collected roughly 9,000 signatures to put on Cleveland’s budget to decriminalize for the 2016 election and then later in 2020 election. However, Reaves said that Councilman Blaine Griffin took up an ordinance inspired by the group’s activities to decriminalize in 2020 with a 15-2 vote.

Reaves called the expungement “a great moment” that made the sacrifice worthwhile

“I was super excited and emotional to see the Mayor and Councilmen do this for the people of this city,” Reaves said. “This was what all the sacrifice and hard work was about.”

The decision is not absolute and will not happen immediately, however. Michelle Earley, presiding judge of Cleveland Municipal Court, will hold hearings at an unspecified date and decide on what to do with the case.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.