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Illinois moves to expunge low-level marijuana convictions

"We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis," said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement recently. The state has just legalized the possession of marijuana for personal recreational use. Medical marijuana is also legal in Illinois.

Expungement of low-level, nonviolent marijuana offenses is a key provision in the law, according to state officials. This is meant to repair some of the damage the War on Drugs has done to individuals and communities, particularly minorities.

The first step toward getting rid of those old convictions was for Governor Pritzker to pardon more than 11,000 eligible misdemeanor possession offenses involving less than 30 grams of marijuana. Now that those offenses have been pardoned, the attorney general can ask courts to seal the records.

These pardons should have an immediate impact on people with previous marijuana possession convictions. It should make it easier for them to qualify for jobs, college financial aid, housing and other things that can be impacted by a drug conviction.

According to state officials, some 116,000 people have been convicted of possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana and could be eligible for pardons. The Illinois State Police are proactively identifying the convictions and forwarding them to the Prisoner Review Board, which will then send eligible cases to the governor for additional pardons.

Those are just the convictions that the state is handling proactively. If you were convicted in Illinois of a non-violent marijuana offense involving between 30 and 500 grams, you can file a petition to have your record cleared. Officials estimate there are about 34,000 cases eligible for expungement by petition.

Old arrests are being expunged, too

You may also have your record expunged if you were arrested for a minor, non-violent marijuana offense in Illinois but never convicted. There are approximately 572,000 cases in this category, and state law enforcement agencies have been directed to expunge these old arrests over the next five years, starting with the most recent cases.

If you were arrested but not charged with a minor marijuana offense in Illinois, you should expect to have that record cleared by the state.

Some of these processes will take place over time. If you were convicted in Illinois of a non-violent marijuana offense involving between 30 and 500 grams, however, you will need to file a petition to have your conviction expunged.

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