ILLINOIS EXPUNGEMENT PROPOSAL FOR POT CONVICTIONS ONE OF NATION’S BROADEST

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By Dean Olsen, State Journal-Register

Illinois would enact one of the nation’s most comprehensive plans for expunging marijuana-related convictions if a bill pending in the General Assembly and supported by Gov. J.B. Pritzker becomes law.

Out of the 10 states that have legalized recreational marijuana, only California has a plan similar to Senate Bill 7 in Illinois to streamline the scrubbing of records for large numbers of marijuana convictions, according to Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Illinois would go farther than California in at least one respect when it comes to helping people clear records and reduce barriers to employment, education and housing, O’Keefe said.

The current proposal in the Illinois General Assembly would allow for expungement of records involving convictions involving possession of far more than 1 ounce of marijuana. The bill would legalize possession of not more than 1 ounce.

Among convictions eligible for expungement in SB 7 would be misdemeanor possession of up to 3.5 ounces of cannabis and Class 4 felony possession of up to 17.6 ounces, or more than 1 pound.

On the other hand, a California bill signed into law last year sets in motion an automatic system of downgrading convictions and expunging marijuana conviction records, but only involving up to 1 ounce of marijuana, the legal limit authorized by voters in that state in 2016.

The broad level of expungements offered in the Illinois legislation has been one of the most controversial parts of the bill, which is expected to be amended by its sponsors this week. No votes have been taken yet in the Illinois Senate or House.

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