Should Illinois expunge prior marijuana convictions?

As more states began legalizing marijuana, a new debate emerged: should those with marijuana convictions have their convictions erased or expunged? That’s the current debate in Illinois after lawmakers passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in May 2019 that the governor will sign into law.

The debate of marijuana conviction expungements has moved to Illinois now that the state government will legalize recreational marijuana. One Illinois senator estimates that there are approximately 770,000 or three-quarters of a million records eligible for expungement. That is a lot of people whose lives could change by having their convictions.

Which marijuana convictions eligible?

Under this new plan, you could have your marijuana-related conviction overturned if law enforcement found you in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. If your case fits this description, law enforcement will automatically identify your case.

If your conviction involved between 30 and 500 grams of marijuana, you could seek to petition on your own.

What other states have done

As the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, Illinois will have some national precedent to base their actions on. Of these states, only Michigan and Alaska have not begun expunging old marijuana convictions. While no state requires you to do so, it’s notable that two states have abstained from expunging these convictions.

However, in Massachusetts, state lawmakers offered up expungement and reported only 61 people petitioned to have their marijuana convictions expunged. Would Illinoisians take greater advantage of the opportunity to wipe their marijuana-related convictions from their records?

It seems that now that Illinois has legalized recreational marijuana that expunging low-level marijuana convictions is likely next. However, we have seen on a national level that some states have been slow to begin this process after legalizing recreational marijuana and other states have received little response after doing so. For almost one million Illinoisians, expungement can mean a fresh start by no longer having that marijuana conviction follow you around.

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