Fulfilling a campaign promise made by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois legalized cannabis via the Legislature rather than a voter initiative. Among Pritzker’s promises was that any legalization would also involve a clearing of cannabis offenders’ criminal records. And true to his word, Prtizker rang in the New Year on Dec. 31 by issuing 11,000 pardons.
“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in a statement, as per the AP. “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.”
That’s just the start. According to state figures, there are more than 116,000 convictions eligible for pardons under Illinois’s new law permitting possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis flower in the state. Another 34,000 people who were found guilty in a previous era of possessing more than 30 grams need to actively file paperwork to have their records cleared — though if the local district attorney’s office wants to clear their own books, they can — and in a troubling quirk, any cannabis crime that also involves a violent crime is not eligible for expungement.