What a way for a state to end 2019. Today, the governor of Illinois granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuna convictions in 92 of the state's 102 counties.
This move is the first wave of thousands of early cancellations under the new Illinois marijuana legalization law. The background removal process is a key part of the law, which goes into effect on Wednesday and makes Illinois the eleventh state to legalize marijuana for people 21 years of age or older, reports ABC News.
When they wrote this law, Illinois lawmakers said they wanted to repair some of the damage caused by law enforcement efforts to combat the sale and use of marijuana, particularly in minority communities. Democratic Governor JB Pritzker announced the pardons in a church on the south side of Chicago.
"The 11,017 pardons that Governor Pritzker is giving today are thousands of lives changed forever, and hundreds of thousands more will be changed in the coming months," said Toi Hutchinson, a former state senator who is now a Pritzker advisor on the policy of Marijuana . "Those who were unfairly attacked by discriminatory drug laws can finally get ahead and build a new future for themselves and their families."
Pritzker said that eliminating misdemeanors from people's records will make it easier for them to obtain employment, housing and financial aid for the university.
But when officials said this was just the beginning, they were not lying. State authorities estimate that 116,000 convictions for 30 grams or less of marijuana, including possession of the drug, would now be eligible for pardons under the new law.
The Illinois State Police are responsible for identifying those convictions and sending the records to the State Prison Review Board. The board then sent the eligible cases to the governor's office for pardons.
Pritzker pardons allow the state attorney general to ask the courts to clean or formally seal the records.
"We are ending the 50-year war against cannabis," Pritzker said in a statement. “We are restoring the rights of many tens of thousands of people in Illinois. We are taking regulation and security to a previously insecure and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts capital at its core. ”
"We know that Black Illinois residents are much more likely to be arrested and convicted of possession of marijuana than whites," said Ben Ruddell, director of criminal justice policy for the Illinois Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "This is a good step forward when starting legal sales of recreational marijuana."
Law enforcement agencies have a period of five years to eliminate records of minor marijuana arrests that did not result in a conviction.
Authorities estimate that 572,000 arrest records qualify. Marijuana arrests accompanied by violent crimes are not eligible for elimination.