The state of Illinois is expunging hundreds of thousands of criminal records for minor charges relating to cannabis. This is following the passage of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker just last summer. The bill automatically gives clemency to Illinois residents charged with possession of under 30 grams of cannabis; anyone previously convicted of larger marijuana possession charges of up to 500 grams will be permitted to petition the Illinois state court to expunge their criminal record. Prior to signing the bill, Gov. JB Pritzker said in a Tweet on June 25th, “The war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities. Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.” On top of automatically expunging records, the passage of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act also provides for the establishment of a social equity program which will more easily allow those with prior cannabis-related charges to obtain business licenses; towards this goal, a sizeable sum of $12 million will be allocated to cannabis startups and job training programs intended to make the “legal cannabis industry…equitable and accessible to those most adversely impacted by the enforcement of drug-related laws in this State, including cannabis-related laws.” According to the wording of the bill, “Individuals who have been arrested or incarcerated due to drug laws suffer long-lasting negative consequences, including impacts to employment, business ownership, housing, health, and long-term financial well-being…[and] family members, especially children, and communities of those who have been arrested or incarcerated due to drug laws, suffer from emotional, psychological, and financial harms as a result of such arrests or incarcerations.” Moreover, the Act clearly states that “certain communities have disproportionately suffered the harms of enforcement of cannabis-related laws…fac[ing] greater difficulties accessing traditional banking systems and capital for establishing businesses.” If you’d like to read the entire bill for yourself, you can find it here. Illinois was the 11th state to legalize recreational weed, and now the Prairie State is set to be the third to move forward with expunging cannabis records, along with California and Washington. The city of San Francisco has even developed an automatic algorithm allowing the government to automatically expunge cannabis records. Washington has also recently introduced significant new changes. In January, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the Marijuana Justice Initiative to “provide an expedited process to grant pardons to people with a single misdemeanor conviction on their criminal record for adult marijuana possession prosecuted under Washington state law.” In an NBC interview in January, Gov. Inslee expressed his support of cannabis record expungement, saying, “We have people who have this burden on their shoulders from a simple, one-time marijuana possession from maybe 20 years ago, and that’s impeding the ability of people to live their lives. It can damage their ability to get financing for a home; it can damage their ability to get financing for colleges, even simple things like going on a field trip with your kids. We should not be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal.”

Continue Reading Below