As Illinois became the 11th state in the nation to legalize cannabis this week, thousands of residents also received gubernatorial pardons for prior minor cannabis convictions.
On Tuesday, December 31, 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker granted pardons to 11,017 individuals in 92 Illinois counties whose past cannabis convictions have hindered them from finding good jobs, housing, and college financial aid.
“We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis,” said Governor Pritzker. “We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”
Governor Pritzker says that Illinois will be like every other state that has legalized cannabis, with a high demand for products and long lines in their earliest weeks.
But unlike other states, says Pritzker, Illinois has built a system that gives the market room to grow so that entrepreneurs, especially those who live in communities that have been devastated by the drug war, will have real opportunities in the new industry, which did $5.24 million in sales in just the first two days of legalization.
Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton says that Illinois is going where no other state has gone before by admitting the unjust errors of the drug war and giving many Illinoisans greater opportunities to build better lives for themselves and their loved ones.
“Our Restore, Reinvest and Review program will direct 25 percent of the state’s cannabis revenue right back into the communities hit the hardest by decades of over-policing, disinvestment, disenfranchisement and violence,” says Lt. Governor Stratton. “In that effort we’re lifting up the voices of the people who actually live in these neighborhoods, who know these blocks and exactly where our dollars will make a real difference.”
Senior Advisor to the Governor for Cannabis Control, Toi Hutchinson, says that the 11,017 pardons that Governor Pritzker granted on Tuesday will forever change thousands of lives, and hundreds of thousands more will be changed in the coming months as those who have been unfairly targeted by discriminatory drug laws can begin to build a new future for themselves and their families.
For convictions of up to 30 grams, 116,000 records are eligible for expungement through the Governor’s pardon process; 43,500 of the records solely involve cannabis offenses, and 72,500 include other non-violent offenses.
Only cannabis offenses will be expunged.
Individuals, civil legal aid organizations representing them, and state’s attorneys can also file motions to vacate for cannabis offenses up to 500 grams.
There are approximately 34,000 records that are currently eligible for expungement through this process.
Law enforcement agencies and state police will automatically expunge arrest records that did not result in a conviction of up to 30 grams, as long as there no associated violent offense.
According to the Office of the Governor, 572,000 arrest records are eligible for expungement.