Monday, April 15, 2024

How The ‘Serial’ Podcast Changed Marijuana Crime Laws In Ohio

First the sultry voice of host Sarah Koenig and rigorous reporting of the hit podcast Serial gave the subject of its first season, Adnan Syed, a new trial and chance for justice. With its third season, Serial addedto its criminal justice résumé by changing the marijuana laws in Ohio.

The focus of an episode in Serial’s third season was a police brutality case in Euclid, Ohio that seemingly originated with a marijuana possession. The show spotlighted how Euclid has some of the harshest marijuana possession laws in Cuyahoga County. Only the municipalities of Euclid and Bedford Heights in the county didn’t fall in line with Ohio state law, which considers less than 100 grams of cannabis a minor misdemeanor.

In Euclid, however, it was considered a first-degree misdemeanor with a punishable fine up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

“A lot of times people don’t realize—they think that with a lot of municipalities being a little more lenient, that it also applies to Euclid. And it did not,” Councilwoman Stephana Caviness told Ideastream. “And maybe that causes incidents to occur that we could sometimes avoid.”

But after discussing the podcast amongst each other, Euclid City Council voted unanimously (8-0) to decriminalize cannabis possession. Now, those caught with less than 100 grams of cannabis will face a minor misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $150.

“We said, we need at least to align ourselves with Ohio Revised Code and align ourselves with the other municipalities in Cuyahoga County. And that’s how it all began,” Caviness said. “So it began with the Serial podcast.”

The episode in question profiled Emirius Spencer, who was savagely beaten by two Euclid police officers, one of which was later identified as a problematic officer most prone to violence in the department. Spencer was attacked by the officers in his apartment complex after they discovered a single blunt on his person. According to, he’d been knocking on a neighbor’s door hoping to snag a cigarette at the time.

In addition, Serial demonstrated how local officers and prosecutors will “script” testimony together, providing airtight defense to protect themselves, regardless of the constitutional violations.


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