Pubdate: Wed, 23 Sep 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Author: Laura A. Bischoff


Fresh Start Act Backed by ResponsibleOhio and Endorsed by ACLU.

COLUMBUS - While campaigning for legal pot through Issue 3, 
ResponsibleOhio took steps Tuesday to pass a law that would allow 
Ohioans with marijuana convictions to go to court to get their 
records expunged.

ResponsibleOhio submitted 236,759 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of 
State for a citizen initiated statute called the Fresh Start Act. A 
little less than 92,000 valid voter signatures are needed to put the 
proposed law before the Ohio General Assembly next year.

If lawmakers fail to act on it by mid-May or it passes but Gov. John 
Kasich vetoes it, ResponsibleOhio will collect another 92,000 valid 
voter signatures to place the issue before voters on the November 
2016 ballot, said ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James.

Non-violent drug convictions, even misdemeanors, often bring 
collateral punishments such as loss of college financial aid, 
driver's license, public housing and professional licensing. Such 
convictions often follow people for a lifetime and hurt their 
employment prospects for years.

The Fresh Start Act would allow anyone convicted of an offense that 
is no longer illegal to request expungement. James did not specify 
what non-weed offenses might be covered.

The ACLU of Ohio and pastors from nearly a dozen African-American 
churches endorsed the Fresh Start Act on Tuesday.

"We know this is the way to go. We need a second chance. We need a 
fresh start," said Pastor Jefferey P. Kee of New Faith Baptist Church 
of Christ in Columbus.

Gary Daniels, an attorney with the ACLU of Ohio, said across the 
country statistics show that "if you're a person of color, you are 
far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, cited and when you 
go to court, convicted - all at far greater rates than somebody like 
me who is not a person of color."

The Fresh Start Act was not included in the 6,500 word Issue 3, which 
is a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for 
recreational and medical use, name 10 sites controlled by campaign 
financiers as the only places to grow commercial weed, and allow 
adults to home grow up to four plants. Issue 3 would set up a state 
agency to regulate the multibillion dollar industry.

Nonetheless, ResponsibleOhio's pro-Issue 3 campaign material talks 
about the Fresh Start Act. Critics say ResponsibleOhio is purposely 
misleading voters - a charge James denies.

"In online promotions, direct mail to voters, and statements to the 
press, the pro-Issue 3 campaign resorts to deception, focusing on 
something that isn't even on the ballot as part of Issue 3 this fall. 
It's distortion out of desperation. Issue 3 is about cementing greedy 
private investors into Ohio's constitution with a plan that will 
create more than 1,100 marijuana stores selling marijuana-infused 
edibles that pose a serious risk to our children," said Ohioans 
Against Marijuana Monopolies, the coalition opposing Issue 3.

Aaron Weaver, president of Citizens Against Responsible Ohio, which 
favors legalizing marijuana but opposes Issue 3 as the mechanism, 
said ResponsibleOhio is using "underhanded tricks and tactics" to 
shore up support.

The mixing of the Fresh Start Act into the Issue 3 material could 
have triggered a complaint before the Ohio Elections Commission but a 
federal court ruling last year invalidated parts of Ohio law 
prohibiting false statements in campaigns. The Ohio Elections 
Commission is not considering false statement complaints while it 
appeals the ruling.

"All I can say is that I found the mailing to be confusing," said 
Ohio State University political scientist Herb Asher. "If I hadn't 
known otherwise, I would have thought that the Fresh Start Act was 
incorporated in Issue 3. It really is a misleading document."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom