Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx took the first step toward wiping more than 1,000 marijuana convictions off the books, appearing at a court hearing Wednesday afternoon to call for the expungement of low-level cannabis convictions.
As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, the move is part of Illinois’ new recreational marijuana law, which legalizes weed in the state on Jan. 1, 2020. People who have been convicted of possessing less than 30 grams of weed prior to the law’s passage will have their records referred for pardon, as long as their offense was nonviolent, according to ABC 7.
The vacated offenses are a key part in ensuring that the state’s legalization push also attempts to redress decades of drug policy that disproportionately punished the black community.
“As a prosecutor who has previously prosecuted these cases, we must own our role in the harm we have caused, particularly to communities of color, and we must actively work to play our part in reversing those harms,” Foxx said.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 88 percent of all marijuana arrests made between were simple possession offenses (arrests for pot also constitute half of all drug arrests in the U.S.). Nationally, black people were nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people.
At the hearing Wednesday, Foxx made clear that the issue was a personal one—her mother regularly self-medicated with marijuana before officially getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she said.
“The notion that my mother would somehow be criminal, and the fact we have criminalized other mothers and fathers and brothers, for a substance that will now be legal seems unjust and unfair,” Foxx said.
Most of the people whose records were expunged on Wednesday aren’t aware of the fact. Foxx said all 1,012 would be notified of their vacated cases by mail.