New drug policy center blends scholarship and public engagement

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC), which is housed at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, focuses on promoting and supporting interdisciplinary, evidence-based research, scholarship, education, community outreach and public engagement on the myriad issues and societal impacts surrounding the reform of criminal and civil laws prohibiting or regulating the use and distribution of traditionally illicit drugs.  DEPC examines the impact of modern drug laws, policies and enforcement on personal freedoms and human well-being, giving particularized and sustained attention to analyzing the rapid evolution of marijuana laws and the impacts of state-level reform efforts.  DEPC strives to advance scholarship from across academia, while also working with government actors, legal practitioners, public policy advocates and other stakeholders, in order to help shape and thoughtfully enrich public conversations about the intersecting fields of drug policy and criminal justice reform.

Questions relating to drug enforcement and policy intersect with collateral consequences in any number of ways.  One obvious example involves the on-going robust discussion of whether and how marijuana reforms at the state level should incorporate distinct provisions for the expungement of past marijuana convictions – a conversation now taking place in New Jersey as that state prepares to vote on legalization.  The Executive Director of DEPC, Professor Douglas Berman, wrote on this topic last year in his article for the Federal Sentencing Reporter titled “Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices.”

Another important question relates to whether people with a criminal record (including for long-ago drug crimes) should be barred from working or otherwise participating in the lucrative marijuana industry.

But other important (and uncertain) intersections abound.  For example, given the large number of drug arrests annually, are non-conviction records distinct and distinctly important in the drug enforcement arena?  We expect to consider this issue in our study of non-conviction records presently underway.  Also, given the tendency of some employment restrictions and other collateral consequences to focus on certain types of prior convictions, do past drug offenses present a uniquely problematic barrier for reentry?    DEPC is eager to help develop and promote research on these kinds of critical topics (and many more).

Marijuana decriminalization drives expungement reform

The national trend toward expanding opportunities for restoration of rights after conviction has continued to accelerate throughout 2018.  By our count, so far this year alone 31 states have broadened existing second chance laws or enacted entirely new ones, enhancing the prospects for successful reentry and reintegration for many thousands of Americans.  On November 6, Florida could take the most politically momentous step of the year if its voters approve a ballot initiative amending the state constitution to re-enfranchise more than a million and a half individuals who are now permanently barred from voting because of a past felony conviction.  We expect to publish a full report on these 2018 reforms, similar to the report we published last winter on 2017 laws, by the end of the year.  Expect it to feature the broad occupational licensing reforms enacted in more than a dozen states since last spring.

Another important series of second chance reforms this year has accompanied marijuana decriminalization.  These reforms are documented and analyzed by Professor Douglas Berman in an important new paper titled “Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices.”  Published in a symposium issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter devoted to various aspects of collateral consequences and criminal records management, Professor Berman’s paper showcases issues that will becomes increasingly important as the War on Drugs winds down.  Professor Berman is the executive director of Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, whose official launch is November 2.  We expect that the Center under his management will give restoration of rights an important place on its policy agenda.

The abstract of Professor Berman’s article follows:  Read more