A nonprofit with the technology to analyze criminal records nearly automatically will help the county that includes Chicago clear tens of thousands of convictions for marijuana possession as Illinois gets set to allow the recreational sale of the drug.
Code for America will provide a digital system to tackle the task at no taxpayer cost and in a fraction of the time it would take bureaucrats to slog through decades of cannabis arrests and convictions, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said at a news conference in Chicago on Tuesday.
California is using the organization's "Clear My Record" program to erase tens of thousands of records in four of its counties, including Los Angeles County.
Possession of 30 grams (one ounce) or less of marijuana will be legal in Illinois starting Jan. 1. The law, which was signed in June, also recognizes that for decades people caught with small amounts of pot received stiff fines, possible jail time and criminal convictions that dogged them for life.
Illinois is the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, and as the legalization movement grows, so too does the debate about the damage inflicted by the government's war on drugs, particularly on minority communities that were disproportionately affected. Foxx, who is black, has been vocal about the role prosecutors must play in repairing the harm and she began clearing pot convictions in the spring, before recreational marijuana was signed into law in June.