More than 11,000 low-level cannabis convictions pardoned

On the final day of 2019, the governor of Illinois granted more than 11,000 pardons for persons with low-level cannabis convictions.

The  governor’s office said in a Dec. 31 news release that with “Illinois poised to become the 11th state in the nation to legalize adult-use cannabis and the first to do so with equity at the core of its approach, Gov. JB Pritzker granted 11,017 pardons for individuals whose low-level cannabis convictions have held them back from good jobs, housing and financial aid for college – as the state is poised to legalize cannabis Wednesday,” Jan. 1. 

The 11,017 misdemeanor expungements involve Illinoisans in 92 counties.

The governor was joined in the celebration by hundreds of community members, stakeholders and elected officials at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side.

 “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,” the governor said.

“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,” the governor continued.

“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.”

 The bipartisan Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act provides multiple avenues to expunge convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses. 

Statewide, there are more than 700,000 records that will be eligible for relief because of the law. 

Expungement of Convictions up to 30 Grams (Pardon Process)

For convictions up to 30 grams not associated with a violent offense, there are 116,000 records eligible for expungement through the governor’s pardon process. 

Of these 116,000 records, 43,500 records solely involve cannabis offenses and 72,500 include another non-violent offense. Only cannabis convictions will be expunged.

The Illinois State Police identified all eligible convictions and forwarded those records to the Prisoner Review Board. 

After PRB verifies the accuracy of the conviction records, the PRB forwards them to the governor for pardon consideration. 

Following the gubernatorial pardons, the PRB will forward the documents to the Illinois attorney general’s office, which will file petitions in the circuit courts to expunge the records.

Expungement of Convictions between 30 and 500 Grams (Motion to Vacate Process)

Individuals, civil legal aid organizations acting on their behalf and state’s attorneys can file motions to vacate for cannabis offenses up to 500 grams. 

Approximately 34,000 records are eligible for expungement under this process. 

Cannabis sales tax revenue will generate funding for programs to help individuals expunge these records.

Expungement of Arrest Records

Local law enforcement agencies and the Illinois State Police will automatically expunge arrest records that did not result in a conviction up to 30 grams. 

This applies to arrests for possession, manufacture, delivery, and possession with intent to deliver. 

The arrests may not be associated with another arrest for a violent offense. 

Approximately 572,000 arrest records are eligible for expungement. 

 Agencies are to expunge these records according to the following statutory timeline:

By Jan. 1, 2021: records of arrest between Jan. 1, 2013 - effective date.

By Jan. 1, 2023: records of arrest between Jan. 1, 2000 - Jan. 1, 2013.

By Jan. 1, 2025: records of arrest prior to Jan. 1, 2000.

Adult-Use Market 

On Wednesday, Jan. 1, the first phase of adult-use cannabis market opened. 

Entrepreneurs could enter the next phase of the adult-use market by applying for a license now through Thursday, Jan. 2. 

An additional 75 dispensary licenses are available, and social equity applicants can apply online at 

 As part of the state’s focus on equity, one fourth of cannabis revenues will support the Restore, Reinvest and Renew (R3) program, which aims to address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence and the historical overuse of the criminal justice system.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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