Illinois expunging marijuana convictions from criminal records

Roughly 770,000 will benefit

By Ryan Prior, CNN
iStock/allanswart

(CNN) - If you've been arrested for weed in Illinois, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker just signed HB 1438 this week, which makes cannabis legal in the state for individuals 21 and over, along with sweeping criminal justice reforms designed to help those whose lives have been upended by the state's drug laws.

In addition to legalizing marijuana, the 610-page bill offers relief to the roughly 770,000 residents of the state with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

New law legalizes weed and helps those caught with it in past

The state's new Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which takes effect in 2020, allows people to automatically receive clemency for convictions up to 30 grams of cannabis. Those convicted with larger amounts, from 30-500 grams can petition a court to have the charge lifted.

The bill defines expunge to mean to "physically destroy the records or return them to the petitioner and to obliterate the petitioner's name from any official index or public record, or both." But it doesn't require the physical destruction of circuit court files.

The bill also includes a "social equity program," which makes it easier for those with marijuana convictions to get business licenses. The program also allocates $12 million for startup businesses related to cannabis, as well as funding for job training programs in the state's cannabis industry, the Marijuana Policy Project says.

The state's Department of Agriculture and its community college board are creating pilot programs to get people ready to work in the newly legal industry, and the state will require them to focus on enrolling the low-income students into those programs.

Illinois is latest state to liberalize its cannabis laws

Gov. Pritzker is fulfilling a promise he made on the campaign trail and is making Illinois the 11th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana. So far 18 states have decriminalized marijuana, the MPP says, and in all 34 states allow patients with health complaints to use medical marijuana.

And Illinois is the latest state to offer clemency for marijuana convictions. Last month Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law that gave marijuana offenders the ability to have their sentences vacated in the state.

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