Pardonpalooza - Illinois Governor Issues Thousands of Pardons for Marijuana Offenses on Eve of Legalization

<p style=”font-size: 0.6em”>In this July 29, 2018, photo, Illinois Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker talks with supporters in Geneva, Ill. New Illinois campaign reports show that Pritzker has pumped $146.5 million of his own money into his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)</p>

As of tomorrow, Illinois will be joining the ranks of states which have legalized marijuana. In conjunction with that law taking effect, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has issued over 11,000 pardons to people with low-level marijuana convictions.  The Post Dispatch reports:

CHICAGO — Illinois’ governor granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions on Tuesday, describing the step as a first wave of thousands of such expungements anticipated under the state’s new marijuana legalization law.

The expungement process is a key part of the law, which takes effect Wednesday and made Illinois the 11th state to legalize marijuana for people 21 or older. When they crafted the policy, Illinois lawmakers said they wanted to repair some of the damage caused by law enforcement’s efforts to combat sale and use of the drug, particularly in minority communities.


“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”

“A new industry that puts equity at its very core”? I have to admit, I haven’t heard it characterized in such a fashion previously. And I’m not entirely certain how an industry puts equity at its core, but okay.


This may come as a surprise but…I think I’m on board with this. At least, in theory. Setting aside the arguments for and against legalization, if you’re going to make pot legal, pardoning those who were convicted of low-level pot offenses seems equitable. Of course, if I were a cynic, I might speculate that there are political motives in play here, and not purely altruistic ones.

And it would be naive to assume the roll out of the law will be smooth sailing. Even the bill’s sponsor recognizes there may be issues with it:

“This is Day One of the end of prohibition. This is not a finished product on Day One,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation in the House.

She noted that the Illinois law ensures that the needs of patients who depend on marijuana for medical use will be met. She says advocates have acknowledged since the beginning that supply will be an issue at first.
“There will always be hiccups,” she said.

Hiccups? I thought that was more of an alcohol-related issue….




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