Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx was scheduled Wednesday to file in court the first motions to vacate low-level cannabis convictions ahead of the drug's legalization for recreational use across Illinois on Jan. 1.
Foxx will personally file the first 1,000 cannabis convictions herself Wednesday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, her office said, adding that she will be joined by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who signed the bill allowing recreational marijuana use into law earlier this year.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, adults over the age of 21 will be able to legally purchase cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries. Part of the new law is a provision to automatically expunge cannabis possession arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction for amounts up to 30 grams (excluding offenses connected to a violent crime).
This pertains to hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents, with many others impacted by a provision through which the governor will grant pardons authorizing expungement for convictions for up to 30 grams. If you were convicted of larger amounts, up to 500 grams, you’ll have to file a motion to vacate your record.
Foxx's office has been working for the past few months with non-profit group Code for America to comb through arrest and conviction records with the organization's "automatic records-clearing software."
The non-profit and its donors have handled the brunt of the cost so far, but the county was expected to eventually have to cover some of those costs as well.
"The reallocation of resources, of not having to go after low-level marijuana offenses, allows us to use those same human resources to do the work on expungement," Foxx said in August. Foxx said people seeking to expunge their convictions won't need to apply for expungement, as the software works on its own to file all the paperwork necessary. Those impacted will receive a notice in the mail of their clear record, Foxx said.
New convictions will be dealt with first because older cases are not digitized and harder to access through the computer program, Foxx's office said. Data from the Illinois State Police showed about 770,000 convictions for cannabis under 30 grams in the state, according to Foxx, with the majority of convictions in Cook County.
The process will likely play out differently in other parts of the state, with experts recommending anyone with questions about their particular situation contact an attorney.