Vindicator editorial: Plan to expunge records of marijuana lawbreakers should go up in smoke

Editorial from the Vindicator

Even if we were inclined to support the legalization of marijuana in Ohio – we aren’t – a companion initiative that would result in the expungement of criminal records stemming from marijuana convictions is a definite deal-breaker for us. We have long opposed the cleansing of court records because we strongly believe there must be consequences to breaking the law.

In the May Democratic primary for mayor of Struthers, The Vindicator chose not to make an endorsement because both the candidates, Danny Thomas Jr. and Ronald A. Carcelli, had their criminal histories wiped clean.

Thomas, who won the Democratic nomination for mayor by a handful of votes, was convicted in 1987 by a federal judge of illegal use of a communication facility [a telephone] to distribute cocaine. His record was sealed in 1998 by a common pleas judge. Thomas then received a presidential pardon from Bill Clinton, a Democrat who enjoyed strong support in the Mahoning Valley when he ran for election and re-election.

The Democratic nominee, a former councilman, is active in party politics and has worked in local, state and national races.

Carcelli, a member of the Struthers Board of Education, was convicted of a misdemeanor count of having an unlawful interest in a public contract. He was ordered to pay $5,000 restitution to the city and a $1,000 fine. Carcelli was indicted on felony charges of theft in office, bribery and theft related to his job with the city of Struthers. The city’s street foreman received a six-month suspended jail sentence, in addition to having to pay the restitution and fine.

Carcelli’s record was sealed in 2012 by a Mahoning County judge.

The thought of either one of those individuals serving as the mayor of Struthers makes us cringe — as does the wholesale expungement of marijuana-related criminal records.


ResponsibleOhio, which has launched a statewide petition drive to place an issue on the November general election ballot to amend the state constitution to make marijuana legal, also is crafting a sentence reform/expungement statute that the Republican controlled General Assembly will be asked to pass.

“This would provide Ohioans who were convicted of marijuana charges the ability to have a clean slate so that they can care for themselves and their families,” ResponsibleOhio says.

The group’s goal is to have the statute presented to the General Assembly after the constitutional amendment is approved by the voters.

It would require sentencing review and provide for expunging marijuana charges and sentences.

The lawmakers can either pass the statute – it would be accompanied by petitions containing 92,000 valid signatures – in its entirety, pass a half or partial measure or pass nothing.

If either of the last two options is chosen by the General Assembly, ResponsibleOhio would by able to go directly to the people by placing the issue on the ballot. An additional 92,000 valid signatures on petitions would be required.


The proponents of expungement contend that in Ohio there isn’t an equal application of the anti-marijuana laws.

“In nearly every media market in the state, there is a city which is applying tougher rules to simple marijuana possession than the state at large does,” they say.

That may well be, but the individuals who have been charged and convicted with possession have broken the law, plain and simple. In a city such as Youngstown, which has been held hostage by drug gangbangers, tough law enforcement is absolutely necessary. There’s nothing secret about the law. If you get caught with marijuana, you will be charged.

To expunge such records would be to reward individuals who believe it’s their right to pick and choose the laws they will obey.

That’s not how a country of laws is designed to work.

As for the legalization of marijuana, the fact that 10 investment groups would control the statewide production of the drug should give voters pause. This monopoly would be memorialized in the state constitution.

ResponsibleOhio is making an all-out push for the legalization of marijuana, but the voters of Ohio should think long and hard before saying yes. There are just too many unknowns. - See more at: