Illinois just became the eleventh state to legalize recreational marijuana, which resulted in thousands of drug-related convictions cleared. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker announced on Tuesday that he had granted over 11,000 pardons for minor marijuana convictions. He added that this is the first of multiple expungement that will arrive as the state moves to address "the past harms of discriminatory prosecution of drug laws."
"We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis," Pritzker said upon announcing the pardons, the Associated Press reports. "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."
Pritzker stressed that clearing these misdemeanor offenses from people's records will make it easier for them to get jobs, housing, child custody, and financial aid for school. State officials have said that somewhere around 116,000 convictions that involved 30 grams or less of marijuana will now be eligible for pardons as part of the new law. These convictions are being identified now, with Illinois State Police sending records to the Prisoner Review Board.
"The 11,017 pardons that Gov. Pritzker is granting today are thousands of lives forever changed—and hundreds of thousands more will be changed in the coming months," said former state senator Toi Hutchinson. "Those who were unfairly targeted by discriminatory drug laws can finally get ahead and build a new future for themselves and their families."
Anyone who has been convicted of offenses that involve more marijuana, between 30 and 500 grams, will be able to file court petitions in order to clear those records, too. Arrests for marijuana that were in conjunction with any violent offenses are eligible, however. As the state welcomes recreational marijuana sale and use, over 40 dispensaries have been issued licenses that started on Wednesday.