420 Day: Illinois marks progress on cannabis holiday, despite long ways to go on clearing records

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Friday, April 21, 2023
420 Day: Illinois marks cannabis progress, despite long ways to go
Marijuana consumption is legal in Illinois, but there's still a long way to go when it comes to clearing people's records.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- April 20 is 4/20, a day when cannabis-oriented celebrations take place. Marijuana consumption is legal in Illinois, but there's still a long way to go when it comes to clearing people's records when it comes to cannabis arrests and convictions.

Weed Street in Lincoln Park was shut town Thursday for weed. 4/20 is a day to celebrate the cannabis industry, and Curaleaf spent the day setting up for an end of the day event that includes a consumption bus.

"4/20 is a celebration of progress in cannabis for us a moment just to celebrate just how far we have come in the industry," said Eric Shankman, VP of marketing for Curaleaf.

The industry has come a long way in the NBA, where former player's association leader Michele Roberts has been instrumental in eliminating cannabis testing for players. Most recently, the league is allowing players to invest in cannabis companies.

"You can't stop someone from engaging in a legal business," Roberts said.

While progress has been made, industry leaders say there is still a long way to go. Marijuana use in Illinois has been legal for all adults for over three years. Part of the law included getting rid of old cannabis arrests and convictions on people's records.

"There's an automatic expungement process where things were supposed to be removed records by state's attorney action," said Melissa Picciola, with Legal Aid Chicago.

Picciola said that so far, the Cook County State's Attorney has cleared about 35,000 records. The other category of records involves someone taking action themselves by petitioning the court.

"Many people are traumatized by their experience in the criminal justice system, so asking them to return to it for this type of relief can be challenging," Picciola said.

Picciola said over 800,000 people in Illinois are eligible to expunge their marijuana criminal records, yet only 3,500 have done it. Clearing their records can make it easier to get housing and jobs.

"You can't even get a job in the cannabis industry with a cannabis record," Picciola said.

Legal Aid Chicago is part of a network of attorney groups called New Leaf. They provide free legal help to anyone who needs help expunging marijuana arrests and convictions.