Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker marked the new decade by granting more than 11,000 pardons to people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.
Today it became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana use and the first to do so without putting the matter to a public vote. As part of the process of legalization, Pritzker has pledged to expunge thousands of convictions and the first 11,017 have now been wiped out.
The state estimates that 116,000 convictions for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana are eligible for pardons. The police force has been tasked with identifying those cases and passing them onto the Prisoner Review Board, where they will be expunged.
A further 34,000 people can apply to have convictions for possessing between 30 grams and 500 grams of marijuana pardoned. Law enforcement agencies also have until 2025 to expunge 572,000 records of minor marijuana arrests that did not result in a conviction.
This whole process should make it easier for those individuals to secure employment, housing, and college places.
“Illinois is putting equity first, clearing thousands of convictions and giving individuals & their families a new lease of life,” said Pritzker.
He added that Illinoisans will see “a new world” of opportunities emerge as they shed the burden of their nonviolent cannabis-related convictions. Pritzker said the state is ending a “50-year war” on marijuana, restoring rights to Illinoisans, bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market and creating a new industry that puts equity at its core.
Recreational marijuana legalization was a core element of Pritzker’s campaign for office. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute estimates cannabis taxes will produce $500 million in annual revenue for the state, which has a significant deficit in its budget.
As of today, Illinoisans aged 21 and over can buy up to 30 grams of marijuana flower, 5g of marijuana concentrate, or 500 grams of THC-infused product, such as edibles, per day. Many of the state’s cities, townships, and villages have initially opted out of permitting dispensaries to open.
Illinois reported that 40 dispensaries have been licensed, but not all of them opened their doors today. There have been long lines outside the stores that have opened, and Illinoisans have been warned to expect short-term supply shortages, as has been the case across the country.