Some cannabis advocates had high high hopes for legal recreational cannabis in Illinois. It wasn’t just their hopes to get high. The hope was that the state’s marijuana policy would be incredibly progressive that it could actually impact drug policy reform beyond its own borders. Instead, it looks like they’re just going to get high.
Chief among these fabulous utopian dreamers may be Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. Cannabis legalization has long been a priority for Pritzker. Pritzker is particularly interested in using legalization as an opportunity to repair some injuries of the drug war by expunging past cannabis-related convictions.
The governor has urged state lawmakers “to take decisive action to make Illinois a national leader in equity and criminal justice reform.”
“Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote,” Pritzker said in a statement, as per the Chicago Sun Times.
One of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator Toi Hutchinson, echoed Pritzker’s sentiments with a grand view of what Illinois could accomplish. “The most historic aspect of this is not just that it legalizes cannabis for adults but rather the extraordinary efforts it takes to reduce the harm caused by the failed war on marijuana and the communities it hurt the most,” Hutchinson said.
So, it’s a pretty major bummer to see the neutered bill which the State Senate approved Wednesday. After receiving criticism from opposing groups including law enforcement, the bill’s sponsors shrank down its expungement ambitions and made other sizable changes to the measure as well.
The original language bill would have automatically expunged roughly 800.000 cannabis convictions. Now, it will allow for convictions of less than 30 grams of cannabis to enter into the governor’s clemency process. For amounts between 30 and 500 grams, an individual or a state’s attorney can petition for a court to expunge the conviction.
After passing in the State Senate, the bill will now go to the House. If passed, it will take effect January 1.
Photo via Flickr user Pedro Szekely