Illinois Expunges 500,000 Cannabis Records on New Year's Eve

Soft Secrets
03 Jan 2021

In the final hours of the bizarre 2020, Illinois governor JB Pritzker announced that 500,000 cannabis-related convictions have been forgiven and removed from the state arrest records.

The governor decided to end the difficult year with some positive developments and announced that he pardoned 9,210 low-level marijuana convictions, while the State Police have removed around 492,000 non-felony pot-related arrest records. The expungement is a part of the state law that legalized marijuana sales in 2020. The process is meant to ease the effects of the war on drugs under which minorities were arrested for weed crimes.

"Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color," Pritzker said. "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," he said.

According to Illinois State law, 47,000 marijuana-related arrest records between 2013 and 2019 should be expunged by Friday (January 1, 2021). With the pardoning of the 492,129 marijuana arrest records, the state police are four years ahead of the Jan. 1, 2025, deadline for finishing automatic expungements at the state level. Police said that at the local level, a number of county court clerks are still in the process of expungement.

Arrest records from Peoria, McHenry, Kane, Rock Island, DuPage, Lake, McLean, Knox, Will and Winnebago counties have been expunged. The rest of the counties have until Jan. 1, 2025, to remove cannabis-related arrest records. Expungements as well as licensing have faced a standstill and had been delayed as a result of lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, Illinois emerged as the first state in the country to approve recreational marijuana sales by an act of the state legislature, while other states had legalized sales by voter initiatives. The state is expected to cash in between $2 to $4 billion in annual revenues from recreational sales. Since legalization, retail sales average $40 million in revenue each month.

“As we near the end of the first year of Illinois’ new legal cannabis industry, I am heartened by the progress we have made towards undoing the harms dealt by the failed war on drugs,” Toi Hutchinson, senior advisor to the governor for cannabis control, said in a statement. “We are one year into what will be an ongoing effort to correct historical wrongdoings.

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,” Hutchinson said. In addition to the news of pardoning half a million cannabis convictions, state officials have announced plans of granting $25 million in marijuana-generated funding to organizations working in underserved communities across Illinois.

Soft Secrets