An estimated 34,000 Illinoisans are still waiting to have their cannabis records expunged, according to the Sentencing Policy Advisory Council.
This is after more than two years since Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Illinois. Part of that law created a pathway to clearing a person’s cannabis record.
Brandon Williams, supervising attorney at Cabrini Green Legal Aid, is part of the New Leaf Illinois statewide network helping to review cannabis-related offenses.
He says part of the process of cannabis expungement is automatic if a person has a minor cannabis offense.
“Otherwise, if you have a conviction where you are sentenced, those have to either be done by the governor through a pardon or by the state’s attorney by filing a motion in court,” Williams said. “A person can file their own motion in court.”
State Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Democrat from the West Side of Chicago, believes more outreach is needed.
Illinois has allocated $1.6 million toward hiring 20 organizations to get the word out and assist with legal aid counsel. Since New Leaf Illinois launched in November 2020, about 1,100 people have registered with the network.
Still, there is more work to be done, Williams said.
“One of the biggest steps is for people to be aware that these services are available,” Williams said. “We don’t just help with the cannabis conviction, we try to get their whole criminal record expunged or sealed.”
Williams added that the cost of receiving assistance or speaking to an attorney is “for the most part free … there are fees, but people can apply to have all court fees and costs waived.”
For more information on receiving legal counsel for cannabis-related offenses, contact New Leaf’s hotline at 855-963-9532.
Contact Acacia Hernandez: (773) 509-5518 | [email protected]