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Illinois governor clears thousands of marijuana convictions

Illinois’ governor 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.

Posted: Dec 31, 2019 4:00 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ governor 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 Wednesday and made Illinois the 11th state to legalize marijuana for people 21 or older. When they crafted the policy, Illinois lawmakers said they wanted to repair some of the damage caused by law enforcement’s efforts to combat sale and use of the drug, particularly in minority communities.

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

State officials estimate that 116,000 convictions for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana are eligible for pardons under the new law. Illinois State Police were responsible for identifying those convictions and sending the records to the state’s Prisoner Review Board, which then forwarded eligible cases to the governor’s office for pardons.

Pritzker’s pardons allow the state’s attorney general to ask courts to formally clear the records.

“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in a statement. “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 for people 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 the state’s 102 counties are represented among the pardons announced Tuesday.

“The 11,017 pardons that Gov. 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 who now is 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 30 grams of marijuana in Illinois can file court petitions to clear those records. Local prosecutors and legal aid organizations also can take that step independently.

State officials estimate that 34,000 records are eligible for that process.

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

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

She 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.

___

Associated Press writer John O’Connor in Springfield contributed to this report.

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Cases: 1101819

Reported Deaths: 20680
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4449279243
DuPage708901168
Will59768888
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Winnebago26766415
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Williamson6358119
Boone565679
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Clinton517486
Coles479085
Knox4706147
Ogle470072
Grundy453154
Effingham437372
Jackson430270
Henry410277
Marion4081113
Macoupin400996
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Randolph380273
Livingston379270
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Jefferson3557105
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McDonough219351
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Union203632
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Jo Daviess152325
Washington149326
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Brown62211
Stark49920
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Henderson46616
Calhoun4504
Scott4081
Alexander4047
Gallatin3974
Putnam3572
Hardin3128
Pope2573
Unassigned1040
Out of IL320

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 611039

Reported Deaths: 9716
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion844351336
Lake45508685
Allen32891552
Hamilton29546315
St. Joseph27449381
Elkhart24440345
Vanderburgh19513250
Tippecanoe18043140
Johnson15140295
Porter14865169
Hendricks14440248
Madison11009222
Vigo10769181
Clark10731144
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LaPorte9103164
Howard8268144
Kosciusko808983
Warrick676599
Hancock6741104
Bartholomew6523100
Floyd6469110
Wayne6157162
Grant6011116
Dubois556980
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Morgan545795
Henry509764
Marshall505384
Cass485264
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Noble474059
Jackson426747
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Clinton374243
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Scott225739
Clay223532
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Sullivan192933
Spencer192422
Washington187523
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Starke175643
Jay168223
Owen166837
Fulton164230
Orange160835
Carroll159115
Rush155818
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Tipton133033
Parke13088
Pike118226
Blackford111422
Pulaski97337
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Crawford8069
Martin74413
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Switzerland6665
Union6287
Ohio4957
Unassigned0376