In addition to its recent legalization of recreational marijuana, Illinois will offer relief to around 770,000 residents with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records.
What We Know:
- Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 1438 in June, allowing adults over the age of 21 to buy and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, five grams of cannabis concentrate and cannabis-infused products containing up to 500 milligrams of THC; Non-residents will be able to purchase up to half of these legal amounts. Additionally, medical patients will be permitted to buy and grow up to five marijuana plants at home.
- The legislation also pardons individuals with nonviolent convictions for amounts of cannabis up to 30 grams, and allows individuals to petition a court to vacate convictions for possession of up to 500 grams. “In the past 50 years, the war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities,” Pritzker said.
- The legislation also includes a social equity program which provides benefits “directly to those who have suffered because of the war on cannabis” by providing financial resources to communities hardest hit from the war on cannabis. “Social equity applicants,” or businesses whose majority ownership and staff suffered from the war on cannabis due to individual or community arrests, may qualify for additional points on applications, a development or training program or financial resources from the $12 million Cannabis Business Development Fund.
- Illinois became the eleventh state in the US to legalize recreational marijuana, and the 18th to decriminalize it. California, New Hampshire, Oregon, Colorado and Maryland have also made it easier for individuals convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have their records sealed or expunged.
- The country has fallen into an intense debate over the expungement of criminal records for marijuana-related convictions; some lawmakers feel it is only fair to allow relief for individuals facing time for now-legal crimes, while others feel this type of legislation creates a dangerous precedent of revisiting criminal charges. Proposals in other states, such as New Jersey, are in motion but face pushback for logistics as well as moral considerations.
Illinois citizens will begin benefiting from this bill when it takes effect in 2020.