Illinois Government Expunges Almost 500,000 Cannabis-Related Arrest Records

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that nearly half a million non-felony cannabis arrests were expunged and thousands of convictions pardoned before 2021.

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Image via Getty/Justin Sullivan

weed illinois

There’s no better way to start a new year than with a clean record – literally. 

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced on Thursday that nearly half a million non-felony cannabis-related arrest records were expunged in the state, and thousands of low-level cannabis convictions had been pardoned.

Almost 500,000 arrest records were expunged by Illinois State Police, while Pritzker issued pardons for 9,129 low-level cannabis conviction records before 2021, fulfilling a deadline set by Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act signed in 2019. 

“Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past — and the decency to set a better path forward.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the legislation mandated that “47,000 cannabis-related arrest records between 2013 and 2019 be expunged by Jan. 1, 2021.” The required expungement is finished at the state level, but the process continues in many counties across Illinois. 

This wraps a groundbreaking year in the world of weed and cannabis, with a number of states legalizing the drug during the 2020 election and others releasing and expunging the records of people incarcerated or arrested in connection with cannabis. 

It’s well-documented how cannabis-related arrests, charges, and convictions disproportionately impact communities of color, and some, like Illinois State Sen. Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, see this moment as only the first baby step toward correcting decades of discrimination and injustice. 

“Dismantling decades’ worth of criminal justice atrocities will take years. That’s evidenced by how this country handles cannabis,” Lightford told the Sun-Times. “We must never stop chipping away at that painful history. I’m proud of these critical first steps.”

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