Illinois To Expunge Nearly 800,000 Criminal Records Surrounding Cannabis Charges

Published on July 2, 2019

Illinois is the latest state to change its laws surrounding cannabis. The state changed its laws to make cannabis legal recreationally beginning in 2020, but it took one extra step in that legalization process to assure that it meant the state would truly be able to turn over a new leaf. Nearly 770,000 criminal records surrounding cannabis-related charges will be eligible to be expunged as part of the new bill. This means that many prisoners that are in jail or prison on cannabis related charges will be able to get out, assuming they meet certain qualifications.

The New Bill

Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed measure HB 1438 into law last week after much encouragement from organizations such as the Marijuana Policy Project and others. The policy ends prohibition on cannabis and, instead, replaces it with a taxed, legal product available to those 21 and older. While the bill doesn’t technically go into effect until 2020, the state is gearing up to offer a system that will create bright new futures for hundreds of thousands of people. The new legislation will allow possession of cannabis by citizens, as well as licensed businesses to be able to grow and sell the product.

Residents of Illinois will be able to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower without seeing legal trouble, as well as 500 milligrams of cannabis-infused products such as edibles and tinctures, and 50 grams of cannabis concentrate at one time. “We applaud the Illinois Legislature and Gov. Pritzker on this resounding victory for personal liberty, racial justice, and common sense,” said the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Steve Hawkins. Other cannabis advocacy groups are praising the bill, and many consider it a step in the right direction regarding future legislation.

While states like California, Nevada, and Oregon have been praised for their liberal cannabis laws, they still fall under scrutiny when it comes to the people that are still doing jail or prison time for cannabis related charges. Many agree that those doing jail time for cannabis charges should have their records expunged now that cannabis has been legalized, and often sold as a luxury good.

Illinois To Expunge Records

As many as 770,000 people will have the opportunity to have their records expunged as part of the new bill. “Illinois’ focus on fairness and equity in legalization should be a model for other states,” said Hawkins in response to Illinois’ decision. Those who have been charged with cannabis related offenses in the past will be granted the opportunity to have their records expunged. That is, if the charge involved 30 grams of cannabis or less.

According to CNN, those who qualify for clemency will have their records physically destroyed. Those who were convicted of crimes that involved between 30 and 500 grams will be able to have their charges lifted, but it will remain on their record. In addition to granting so many people the opportunity to have their records expunged, the bill also includes a program that makes it easier to get a business license if you have a conviction on your record. Other states have discussed similar programs, as this was a major point in Cynthia Nixon’s 2018 campaign for Governor of New York.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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