Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

High Times
0

News

Effort to Clear Low-Level Cannabis Convictions in Illinois Gains Traction

Illinois decriminalized possession up to 10 grams in 2016, and HB 2367 would allow anyone with a cannabis charge to petition for expungement, so long as the conviction is older than three years.

Effort to Clear Low-Level Cannabis Convictions in Illinois Gains Traction
Dougie Jones/ Shutterstock

State legislatures across the U.S. are wrapping up their work for the season. But lawmakers in Illinois are working to get a bill in under the wire that would allow folks to expunge prior misdemeanor cannabis convictions from their records. Illinois decriminalized cannabis possession up to 10 grams in 2016, and the law went into effect on July 29. The bill lawmakers are proposing would make all convictions and guilty pleas that are at least three years old eligible for expungement. While not as progressive as expungement efforts in other states, Illinois hopes their approach will restore employment opportunities to those most impacted by the over-criminalization of cannabis.

Lawmaker Says Illinois Can’t Overlook Damage of Over-Criminalization

Illinois HB 2367 got its start in 2017 as an attempt to amend the Criminal Identification Act. Lawmakers introduced the bill to allow for the sealing of criminal records of convictions for non-violent offenses 10 years after a person serves their sentence. But it was on the eve of 4/20 of this year that lawmakers added Amendment 7 to the bill. Amendment 7 came out of the work of the Illinois General Assembly’s Restorative Justice Committee. The amendment paves the way for anyone with a conviction or guilty plea for cannabis on their record to petition a circuit court judge for expungement.

The conditions for expungement, however, are a little stricter than those in other states pursuing similar measures. While the bill allows for expungements of any cannabis offenses prior to July 29, 2016, it requires petitioners to wait three years after they complete their sentence. In other words, anyone who pleaded guilty to possessing a gram of marijuana on July 28, 2016, has to wait until 2019 to petition a judge for expungement. The three-year requirement, therefore, creates a small gap in the date range that will force some petitioners to wait.

HB 2367’s initial sponsor was State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), who’s now running for mayor of Chicago. If the bill becomes law, Ford has vowed to direct all Illinois attorneys to throw out any pending low-level cannabis charges. And there’s a chance the bill could pass by early next year, thanks to Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford’s (D-Maywood) promoting up of the bill on Friday. “As the conversation about legalizing recreational marijuana continues to gain traction,” Lightford said, “it would be irresponsible of legislators to overlook the damage over-criminalization has caused.”

Redressing Illinois’ Racist Over-Criminalization of Cannabis

Rep. Ford says the expungement amendment is about making sure “everyone in Illinois is employable.” And that starts, Ford says, with giving people with minor marijuana offenses the chance to tell prospective employers they have a clean record. Marijuana convictions can bar people from more than just employment. Criminal records jeopardize housing, access to loans and federal benefits, childcare and even immigration status.

Furthermore, an ACLU report from 2013 highlighted the billions of dollars wasted on racially biased arrests. According to the report, black residents of Illinois are more than seven times as likely than whites to face arrest for marijuana possession. HB 2367 won’t redress the historic and lasting harms of such disproportionate enforcement. But it is “just the first step in ensuring that this ‘war on drugs’ that we’ve been fighting that has disproportionately affected black and brown people in the city of Chicago, is fair,” Ford said. So far, the bill has received broad support. Only the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, a non-profit organization, has come out in opposition to the expungement efforts.

HB 2367 will have to move quickly if it’s to make it out of Assembly by year’s end. The bill still needs Senate approval to make it to Republican Gov. Rauner’s desk by January. If it doesn’t, the bill will have to begin again in the 101st General Assembly.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

HT Newsletter

Subscribe for exclusive access to deals, free giveaways and more!

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Advertisement

You May Also Like

News

The business of recreational cannabis in Illinois is booming.

News

State officials announced the delays this week.

News

According to a new report from the ACLU, racial disparities in marijuana arrests in some states have gotten worse—not better—since legalization.

News

Tax money from cannabis sales are going towards helping those in rural areas.

News

Last month, adult-use marijuana sales in Illinois continued to surge.

News

A House representative from Chicago is urging the passing of a home delivery bill she introduced last month.

News

At least eight recreational shops are taking a beat in the wake of the pandemic.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois is trying to reduce the amount of the new virus transmissions in dispensaries.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!