Hundreds of thousands of low-level cannabis arrest records have been erased in Illinois, years ahead of schedule.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker last week announced that the Illinois State Police (ISP) had expunged 492,129 non-felony cannabis-related arrest records.
The announcement comes four years before the deadline established by the equity-centric Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) that Pritzker signed in June 2019.
Pritzker later granted approximately 11,000 pardons on Tuesday, December 31, 2019.
Governor Pritzker also issued pardons for 9,219 low-level cannabis conviction records last week, totaling more than 20,000 pardoned convictions since CRTA became law.
“Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands (of) low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color,” said Pritzker. “We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward.”
The CRTA requires that 47,000 cannabis-related arrest records created between 2013 and 2019 be expunged by January 1, 2021.
Last week’s expungement of nearly 500,000 cannabis arrest records puts the process four years ahead of the statutory deadline for completion on January 1, 2025.
And though the process is complete at the state level, county clerks are still processing expungements at the local level.
Currently, DuPage, Kane, Knox, Lake, McHenry, McLean, Peoria, Rock Island, Will, and Winnebago counties have expunged their arrest records.
The remaining counties have until January 1, 2025, to expunge low-level cannabis arrest records.
Senior Advisor to the Governor on Cannabis Control Tori Hutchinson says she is heartened by the progress that Illinois has made in undoing the harms of the failed war on drugs during the first year of the state’s legal cannabis industry.
Hutchinson says that in the administration’s ongoing efforts to correct historic wrongdoings, it is committed to upholding the intentions of the law, working with legislators to address challenges to equity, and building an industry that re-invests in Illinois communities.
State law mandates that 25 percent of adult-use cannabis sales revenue go toward helping negatively impacted communities through the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program.
According to a press release, the R3 Program will grant more than $25 million to organizations that work with historically underserved Illinois communities statewide.
To further help impacted communities, the Pritzker Administration has offered lower application fees, low-interest loans, and educational workshops on cannabis-related licenses for social equity applicants.
The administration also conducted a disparity study and provided financial support to disproportionately impacted communities.
“The public servants of the Illinois State Police Division of Justice Services have worked diligently on the expungement process for thousands of eligible records across the state,” says IP Director Brendan Kelly. “We will continue to work closely with the Governor in the years ahead to implement this new law.”