If you’ve faced charges for marijuana in Illinois, you can now breathe a bit easier, as the politics of pot are changing in the prairie state.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has signed HB 1438, which makes cannabis legal in Illinois for individuals 21 and over. The bill also boasts comprehensive criminal justice reforms drafted to help those who have been affected by the state’s drug laws.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, in addition to legalizing marijuana, the 610-page bill offers relief to the roughly 770,000 residents of Illinois with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records.
Keeping a promise he made on the campaign trail, Gov. Pritzker is naming Illinois the 11th US state to legalize recreational marijuana. So far, 24 states have passed laws either fully or partially decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses, and 33 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the use of medical marijuana.
Taking effect in 2020, the state’s new Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will allow people to automatically receive clemency for convictions up to 30 grams of cannabis. Those convicted with larger amounts, from 30-500 grams can petition a court to have the charge lifted.
The bill defines expunge to mean to “physically destroy the records or return them to the petitioner and to obliterate the petitioner’s name from any official index or public record, or both.” However, it doesn’t call for the physical destruction of circuit court files.
The program will appropriate $12 million for cannabis-related startups, as well as funding for job training programs in the state’s cannabis industry. The bill also introduces a “social equity program,” which will make business licenses more accessible for residents with marijuana convictions.
The state’s Department of Agriculture and its community college board are creating pilot programs to get people ready to work in the newly legal industry, and the state will require them to focus on enrolling the low-income students into those programs.