Illinois Plans to Erase Marijuana Convictions From 770,000 Criminal Records


Illinois Plans to Erase Marijuana Convictions From 770,000 Criminal Records

Illinois became the 11th state in the USA to make cannabis legal for recreational use. However, the state’s new legalization bill will also grant relief to approximately 770,000 residents of the state with marijuana convictions on their criminal records.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will come into effect in 2020. It's been hailed not only for ending cannabis prohibition but also for including broad criminal justice reforms which seek to undo the damage done against those that have run afoul of the state’s prohibitionist policies.

The 610-page act allows anybody with convictions of up to thirty grams of cannabis to receive clemency automatically and have their pot convictions expunged from their criminal records. Anybody convicted of larger amounts varying from 30 to 500 grams would be able to petition the court to have the charges lifted.

Expungement is the process in which a judge seals a criminal record from view, or ‘erases’ it in the eyes of the law. Records with past convictions pulled up in criminal background checks can frequently bar people from accessing housing or jobs, putting them in a position of de facto second-class citizenship.

Furthermore, the bill allows for individuals with cannabis convictions to be given expedited access to business licenses and access to capital, loans, and protection from fees which are often used to place barriers to entry for smaller businesses. $12 million will be allocated to startup business in the cannabis industry and funding for job training programs related to the Illinois cannabis industry.

Additionally, the state’s Department of Agriculture will create programs to assist the entry of people into the legal cannabis industry. Priority will be given to low-income students and communities that were previously targeted by anti-drug laws.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker successfully campaigned in 2018 on a platform which included strong support for legalizing recreational cannabis, claiming that an end to prohibitionist laws could be an economic boon to Illinois, generating $800 million to $1 billion of revenue a year, as the Associated Press reports.

Pritzker has even blasted the harm caused by the war on drugs, particularly in terms of its negative impact on communities of color.

Cannabis has been subject to prohibitionist laws since 1937 when the plant majorly demonized and linked to Mexican immigrants amid rising racist and nativist attitudes supported by federal and local authorities and media outlets. During the 1970s, marijuana was depicted by authorities as a drug serving no medicinal purpose, which was abused by delinquents seeking to get high.

A poll by the Pew Research Center has recently found that 62% of U.S. residents, including 74% of millennials, favor an end to the prohibition of cannabis.

During the signing ceremony, Pritzker cited a 2010 statistic from the ACLU noting that while black people comprise 15% of the state population, they disproportionately account for 60% of cannabis-possession arrests.

A 2018 report by the Drug Policy Alliance discovered that, even in states where marijuana is legalized, people of color still faced a far higher rate of arrests on charges of marijuana possession than did their white counterparts.

California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use in 1996, and more than 34 states have since done the same. With Illinois’ passage of the new law, it joins 10 other states along with Washington, D.C. which have freed the herb almost entirely for recreational purposes. Eighteen states have also decriminalized the plant, which remains illegal under federal law.

Illinois is joining Washington as the latest state offering clemency to marijuana offenders. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is also signing a law granting those with cannabis convictions to vacate their sentences in the state.



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Thinking Humanity: Illinois Plans to Erase Marijuana Convictions From 770,000 Criminal Records
Illinois Plans to Erase Marijuana Convictions From 770,000 Criminal Records
Illinois became the 11th state in the USA to make cannabis legal for recreational use.
Thinking Humanity
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