Illinois Governor Grants More Than 11,000 Pardons for Cannabis Convictions

Gov. J.B. Pritzker granted 11,017 pardons for individuals with low-level cannabis convictions and takes the first steps to “ending the 50-year long war on cannabis.”

One day before the state of Illinois opened sales for its adult use cannabis market, Gov. J.B. Pritzker granted more than 11,000 pardons to those with low-level marijuana convictions in the state.

“Tomorrow when adult-use cannabis becomes legal, pay attention to the fact that we are beginning to accomplish four very important things: We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis. We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core,” said Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker announced on Dec. 31 that he would be making 11,017 misdemeanor expungements as a move forward in the state’s pledge for equity in cannabis regulation. The bipartisan legislation, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, that Pritzker signed earlier in 2019 is intended to provide multiple avenues to clear prior convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses.

According to the news release, there are more than 700,000 records statewide eligible for relief because of the cannabis reform law. Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor to the Governor for Cannabis Control, helped to create the law.

“As one of the authors of this historic law, I am so proud to witness equity being put into practice today,” Hutchinson stated. “The 11,017 pardons that Gov. Pritzker is granting today are thousands of lives forever changed — and hundreds of thousands more will be changed in the coming months. Those who were unfairly targeted by discriminatory drug laws can finally get ahead and build a new future for themselves and their families.”

State and local law enforcement agencies will also automatically expunge arrest records that did not result in a conviction for possession or more than 30 grams. Approximately 572,000 arrest records are eligible for expungement.

Individuals with cannabis convictions involving up to 500 grams can begin the motions to vacate process. Approximately 34,000 records are eligible to apply for expungement utilizing this process. The expungement of records for low-level cannabis offenses and arrests will start with the most recent arrests and be completed by 2025.

A primary piece of the cannabis reform legislation includes the Restore, Reinvest and Renew (R3) program dedicated to “addressing the impact of economic disinvestment, violence and the historical overuse of the criminal justice system,” the press release stated. One-fourth of the marijuana revenue is devoted to supporting the R3 program.

Pritzker stated in the news release that Illinois has set a new standard in cannabis reform.

“Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry,” Pritzker said.

Legal Marijuana in Illinois

In June, Illinois became the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis when Gov. Pritzker signed into law HB 1438, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. The bill has placed Illinois on track to become the second-largest cannabis market in the country, behind California.

The monumental moment was significant for many reasons but one that stood out was the way in which state lawmakers legalized marijuana. Illinois was the first state to legalize cannabis through a legislative process, instead of a voter referendum.

Cannabis in the News

Learn even more about cannabis laws in Illinois, or follow the Illinois cannabis market as it launches into its first year by checking back into our cannabis news page.