CHICAGO (WLS) -- With Illinois poised to legalize recreational marijuana in 2020, Governor JB Pritzker granted 11,017 pardons for individuals with low-level cannabis convictions.
Governor Pritzker's office says the misdemeanor expungements involve people in 92 counties in Illinois.
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"Tomorrow when adult-use cannabis becomes legal, pay attention to the fact that we are beginning to accomplish four very important things: We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis. 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," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we 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."
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The Cannabis Regulations and Tax Act provides for ways to expunge convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses, with more than 700,000 records that will be eligible.
The governor's team said these cases were identified by state police and reviewed by the prison review board before being sent to Governor Pritzker for pardoning. Next these cases are forwarded to the state attorney general's office to file for expungement.
Governor Pritzker acknowledged that marijuana convictions have disproportionately impacted black and brown people and stressed that this new industry emphasizes equality saying it will bring safe oversight and an end to a decades' long war. Pritzker made the announcement at Trinity United Church of Christ Tuesday.
"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," said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. "Clearing records under this revolutionary new law will not only open doors for thousands of families but will create stronger, safer communities as well. I'm proud to work alongside Governor Pritzker and other leaders as we make criminal justice reform a top priority in Cook County and across Illinois."
Local law enforcement and Illinois State Police will automatically expunge arrest records that did not result in a conviction up to 30 grams.
In response to the pardons, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois issued a statement saying, ""The Governor's pardons of Illinoisans with convictions for marijuana possession makes the new year brighter for thousands. We applaud the Governor for acting to address the history of unnecessary and discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws in Illinois.
"We know that Black Illinois residents are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession than whites. This is a good step forward as we begin the legal sales of recreational marijuana."
Governor JB Pritzker issues 11K pardons for marijuana convictions