Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill this week set to legalize cannabis use in the state.

Illinois residents with minor marijuana convictions on their record can finally exhale.

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed HB 1438 this week, which legalizes the use of cannabis in the state by residents 21 and over. It also enacts a process by which some 770,000 Illinois residents with cannabis-related criminal records are eligible to have their convictions expunged, per the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group.

Under the new law, Illinoisans convicted for possession of under 30 grams of marijuana (that’s slightly more than an ounce) prior to legalization will automatically be granted clemency, so long as violent crime wasn’t also part of the conviction.

Residents whose convictions were for amounts between 30 and 500 grams (that’s a little more than a pound) won’t receive automatic clemency. They’ll have to individually petition the court, which will decide on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to expunging individuals’ records, the new law also contains a “social equity” component that incentivizes people and communities disproportionately impacted by the war on cannabis to apply for business licenses.

“The most historic aspect of this is not just that it legalizes cannabis for adults but rather the extraordinary efforts it takes to reduce the harm caused by the failed war on marijuana and the communities it hurt the most,” State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who co-sponsored the bill, said of the legislation earlier this year.

MPP concurs. In an overview of Illinois’ new law, the group labeled it “one of the most sweeping criminal justice reforms so far in the cannabis movement.” 

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.


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