Illinois has been receiving some flack lately, as the state made it seem like expunging charges was a priority after legalization took hold, but so far, has been slow to roll those out. Now, the state is making up for that lost time, having recently expunged nearly 500,000 low-level convictions.
These expungements, made by the Illinois State Police, tackled non-felony and cannabis-related arrest records and were signed off on by Governor JB Pritzker.
Under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, the state has promised that cannabis arrest records from 2013 to 2019, totaling 47,000 in eligible cases, be cleared by the first of this year. By 2025, the state is expected to be up and running with automatic expungement. The state is now ahead of schedule instead of behind, having reached 492,129.
However, even though this makes the state four years ahead when it comes to state-level charges, counties still have to deal with their own, local expungements, and still must do so by 2025.
Some counties, including DuPage, Kane, Knox, Lake, McHenry, McLean, Peoria, Rock Island, Will, and Winnebago counties, already have their records expunged, but more need to catch up.
Additionally, Pritzker has issued nearly 10,000 pardons for low-level convictions, leading the total number of overturned conviction charges to over 20,000.
“Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color,” says Pritzker regarding the pardons. “We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward. I applaud the Prisoner Review Board, the Illinois State Police, and our partners across the state for their extraordinary efforts that allowed these pardons and expungements to become a reality.”
“The public servants of the Illinois State Police Division of Justice Services have worked diligently on the expungement process for thousands of eligible records across the state,” adds ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly. “We will continue to work closely with the Governor in the years ahead to implement this new law.”
Additionally, in order to make sure the cannabis industry is serving the community, 25 percent of revenue from cannabis sales will go to communities that were disproportionately affected by the justice system. The Illinois Restore, Reinvest and Renew (R3) Program is making sure that more than $25 million goes to organizations that have been underserved. Additionally, the governor’s administration is striving to offer lower application fees and loans with better interest rates to communities in need, as well as workshops about how to get into the industry and get licenses.
“Governor Pritzker continues to work with State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, the Prisoner Review Board, and state’s attorneys across Illinois to expunge additional records of non-violent offenders with a cannabis related conviction,” an official press release said.
This represents a huge step forward for those who previously used cannabis in Illinois, and will lay the groundwork for a new, more accepting, cannabis community.