Thursday, December 31, 2020
The title of this post is the headline of this new Marijuana Moment piece, which I thought must include a typo because how could there be "half a million" arrests or convictions to eliminate. But then I remembered how many people bear scars from marijuana prohibition, and sp here is the story:
The governor of Illinois on Thursday announced more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level marijuana offenses on their records. The massive clemency and records clearing sweep comes about one year after the state’s legal cannabis market launched. Prior to its implementation, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) granted an earlier round of more than 11,000 pardons for marijuana-related convictions.
The new effort saw slightly fewer gubernatorial pardons (9,219), but an additional 492,129 expungements for people convicted over non-felony cannabis offenses. The Illinois State Police helped facilitate the record clearing process.
Illinois’s marijuana legalization law includes restorative justice components that require the state to proactively expunge certain cannabis convictions — but this development puts Illinois four years ahead of schedule. “Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color,” Pritzker said in a press release. “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.”
“I applaud the Prisoner Review Board, the Illinois State Police, and our partners across the state for their extraordinary efforts that allowed these pardons and expungements to become a reality,” Pritzker, who alluded to the additional pardons in October, added.
Toi Hutchinson, a senior cannabis advisor to the governor, said she is “heartened by the progress we have made towards undoing the harms dealt by the failed war on drugs.”
“We are one year into what will be an ongoing effort to correct historic wrongdoings,” she said. “The administration remains committed to working with legislators to address any challenges to equity and on building an industry that re-invests in our state’s communities.” According to the press release, “the expungement process has been completed at the state level,” but “county clerks are still processing expungements at the local level.”
The Marijuana Moment article concludes by noting some other states that have been working to ensure marijuana reform serves as a form of criminal justice reform:
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is being pressed by civil rights groups to systematically issue pardons for people with marijuana convictions to supplement the state’s voter-approved move to legalize cannabis.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) used a recently enacted law to grant nearly 3,000 pardons for people convicted of possession one ounce of less of marijuana.
In June, more than 15,000 people who were convicted for low-level marijuana possession in Nevada were automatically pardoned under a resolution from the governor and Board of Pardons Commissioners.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has also issued pardons for cannabis offenses.