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Illinois Governor Pardons Over 11,000 People For Marijuana One Day Before Legal Sales Begin



One day before legal recreational marijuana sales launch in Illinois, the governor announced that his office is clearing the records of more than 11,000 people who have previously been convicted of simple cannabis possession.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) said the move “sets us apart” from other states that have legalized marijuana for adult-use and that “Illinois is putting equity first, clearing thousands of convictions and giving individuals & their families a new lease on life.”

A total of 11,017 people will be receive pardons for possession offenses of up to 30 grams. The governor’s office said that there are 116,000 records that are eligible for expungement through this process, with hundreds of thousands of others that may qualify for relief by petitioning the courts.

“Importantly, this is just the first wave of Illinoisans who will see a new world of opportunities emerge as they shed the burden of their nonviolent cannabis-related convictions and records,” he said.

While Prtizker said he anticipates Illinois will see “high demand and long lines” for marijuana as legal sales go online, he emphasized the need to address restorative justice at the same time that the state benefits economically from its adult-use program.

Illinois lawmakers “purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry,” he said. “It’s important to put this moment in perspective.”

The governor said legalization will accomplish four main feats: ending a decades-long prohibition on cannabis, restoring rights to tens of thousands of residents, regulating a formerly unsafe illicit market and developing an industry “that puts equity at its very core.”

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx joined Pritzker to announce the expungements and said that “[c]learing cannabis records will reopen doors for thousands of people and strengthen our communities.”

“Today we took another step toward justice, as we continue to address the failed war on drugs and the disproportionate impact it had on communities of color,” Foxx said in a press release. “Clearing records under this revolutionary new law will not only open doors for thousands of families but will create stronger, safer communities as well.”

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D) said that “Illinois is going where no other state has before, admitting the unjust errors of the war on drugs and giving so many Illinoisans greater opportunities to build good lives for themselves and the people they love.”

“Our Restore, Reinvest and Renew program will direct 25 percent of the state’s cannabis revenue right back into the communities hit the hardest by decades of over-policing, disinvestment, disenfranchisement and violence,” she said. “In that effort, we’re lifting up the voices of the people who actually live in these neighborhoods, who know these blocks and exactly where our dollars will make a real difference.”

Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana when Pritzker signed the reform legislation in June. It was the first state to approve a tax-and-regulate system for cannabis through the legislature as opposed to by voters via a ballot initiative.

Advocates expect to see many other new state marijuana laws enacted in the coming months and years.

Oklahoma Activists File Revised 2020 Marijuana Legalization Measure To Protect Medical Program

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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