Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx on Wednesday filed motions to vacate more than 1,000 low-level cannabis convictions in the county.
The motions were filed to provide relief for Cook County residents before cannabis legalization goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
In addition to making cannabis legal in the state, the new law requires minor marijuana convictions to be expunged.
The convictions vacated on Wednesday were for non-violent cannabis possession cases involving less than 30 grams.
The filing of the motions completely erases the convictions from criminal records as if they never happened.
“Today, we made history and took the first step in the single largest and most equitable piece of criminal justice reform Illinois has ever seen,” said Foxx. “As prosecutors who implemented these convictions, we must own our role in the harm they have caused—particularly in communities of color—and play our part in reversing them.”
Foxx says that clearing records is not only a critical part of righting the wrongs of the failed war on drugs, but an intentional step to allow people the chance to move forward, benefiting communities.
In August, Foxx announced a partnership with the nonprofit Code for America organization to process orders quickly and efficiently with no cost to those seeking relief.
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker says that hundreds of thousands of residents throughout Illinois are hindered by low-level cannabis-related records and that hundreds of thousands of others have had to watch their friends and loved ones struggle because of an arrest or conviction for something that is going to be legal in less than a month.
Pritzker says that arrest rates and prosecution have never reflected consumption rates across racial lines as communities of color have been disproportionately affected.
“We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that unfairness and the damage it visited upon so many families,” said Pritzker. “But we can govern our state with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to correct the record and set a better path forward.”
Once a conviction has been fully vacated, the Clerk of the Circuit Court will notify the individual at their last known address or through email.
Current and former residents of Cook County can update their address with a form on the County website.