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Illinois Gov Pardons 11,000 for Low-Level Marijuana Convictions as Weed Goes Legal
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=22014"><span class="small">Associated Press</span></a>   
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 14:39

Excerpt: "Illinois governor JB Pritzker granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions on Tuesday, describing the step as a first wave of thousands of such expungements anticipated under the state's new marijuana legalization law."

Cannabis. (photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images)
Cannabis. (photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images)


Illinois Gov Pardons 11,000 for Low-Level Marijuana Convictions as Weed Goes Legal

By Associated Press

01 January 20


Democrat JB Pritzker says pardons represent first wave of thousands expected under state’s new marijuana legalization law

llinois governor JB Pritzker granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions on Tuesday, describing the step as a first wave of thousands of such expungements anticipated under the state’s new marijuana legalization law.

The expungement process is a key part of the law, which takes effect on Wednesday and makes Illinois the 11th state to legalize marijuana for people 21 or older. Lawmakers said they wanted to repair some of the damage caused by efforts to combat sale and use of the drug, particularly in minority communities.

Pritzker, a Democrat, announced the pardons at a church on Chicago’s South Side. He said clearing the misdemeanor offenses from individuals’ records would make it easier for them to get jobs, housing and financial aid for college.

Officials estimate 116,000 convictions for possession of 30g or less of marijuana are eligible for pardons under the new law.

“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said. “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.”

Other states that have begun permitting marijuana’s sale and use created procedures to expunge minor drug offenses, but Illinois officials wanted the process to be almost automatic for people with non-violent marijuana arrests or convictions on their records.

“We know that black Illinois residents are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession than whites,“ said Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “This is a good step forward as we begin the legal sales of recreational marijuana.”

Pritzker’s office said 92 of 102 counties were represented among the pardons announced.

“The 11,017 pardons that Governor Pritzker is granting today are thousands of lives forever changed – and hundreds of thousands more will be changed in the coming months,“ said Toi Hutchinson, a former state senator now an adviser to Pritzker on marijuana policy.

“Those who were unfairly targeted by discriminatory drug laws can finally get ahead and build a new future for themselves and their families.”

People who have been convicted of offenses involving more than 30g of marijuana in Illinois can file court petitions to clear those records. Local prosecutors and legal aid organizations also can take that step. State officials estimate 34,000 records are eligible.

Illinois regulators said 34 dispensaries have been issued licenses to sell recreational marijuana but not all plan to participate immediately. Industry leaders have warned consumers to expect long lines and potential shortages.

“This is day one of the end of prohibition,” said Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation in the House. “This is not a finished product on day one.”

Cassidy noted that the Illinois law ensures that the needs of patients who depend on marijuana for medical use will be met. She says advocates have acknowledged since the beginning that supply will be an issue at first.

“There will always be hiccups,” she said.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2020 15:11