Unlike in Canada, individuals with such convictions will not have to apply for a pardon.
The governor of Illinois has granted pardons for more than 11,000 residents convicted of low-level, non-violent, cannabis-related convictions.
The expungements, which Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has described as the first step towards further eradicating thousands of similar convictions, came just one day before the drug became legal for adults aged 21 and older in the state on Jan. 1, 2020.
The process of clearing the convictions was a central aspect in the architecture of the state’s legalization of the drug. Legislators prioritized the mitigation of some of the harms caused by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition, which disproportionately affected marginalized communities such as racial minorities and residents with lower incomes.
The pardons were announced by the governor at a Chicago church, where Pritzker touted the move as enabling those with cannabis convictions to find jobs and housing and qualify for student loans and other financial aid for post-secondary education.
Authorities estimate there are about 116,000 instances where Illinois residents were convicted of offences involving less than 30 grams of the drug, mostly for possession.
Unlike in Canada, individuals with such convictions will not have to apply for a pardon; the responsibility lies with the Illinois State Police to identify qualifying convictions and forward records to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board for further examination. If approved, those cases will be sent to the governor’s office and expunged from residents’ records.
If convicted of offences involving 30 to 500 g, individuals may still qualify for a pardon, but they will be responsible for petitioning the state court to expunge those records. State officials estimate there are more than 30,000 such convictions.
“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in a statement. “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,” the governor added.
Want to keep up to date on what’s happening in the world of cannabis? Subscribe to the Cannabis Post newsletter for weekly insights into the industry, what insiders will be talking about and content from across the Postmedia Network.
Written by Emma Spears