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Illinois Attorney’s Office Reaches Over 15,000 Cannabis Expungements |

It has been over two years since Illinois legalized recreational cannabis. Over 15,000 marijuana-related exonerations have already been done. 

Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) announced on April 20 that it had finalized their goal to complete the Cannabis Expungement Project, an effort that sought to cleanse Illinois residents’ records of any cannabis-related crimes. Kim Foxx was the leader of this initiative. TwitterThe office presented an additional 221 cases on April 22 to be auto-expunged for a total 15,191, thus concluding their project.

Foxx released another statement, pointing out the importance of expungement programs. “Felony charges can affect every aspect of a person’s life, from jobs to housing, long after the debt to society has been paid,” Foxx said. “I am proud that by working with advocates, Code for America, the Chief Judge’s Office, the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, and the Illinois State Police we were able to bring relief for so many individuals so that they, their families, and their communities can move forward.”

The remaining 588 cases involving cannabis are not yet extinguished. Some of these cases date back as far as 1965. The CCSAO stated in a press release that they were working closely with the state on these cases. 

Overall, Foxx added “[T]It is much more than just convicting thousands of criminal defendants. This is about rebuilding trust in the criminal justice system.”

Foxx explored what was necessary for expungement as early as April 2019, and began to look into it. In June 2019, Governor J. B. Pritzker signed the state’s recreational cannabis law, which also immediately expunged 800,000 residents whose records were marked with small scale cannabis possession. 

Foxx and Code for America announced in August 2019 their cooperation with Code for America. This will allow for expungement of any possession charge up to 30g. “It is prosecutors who were part of the War on Drugs, we were part of a larger ecosystem that believed that in the interest of public safety, that these were convictions that were necessary to gain,” Foxx said. “In the benefit of hindsight and looking at the impact of the War on Drugs, it is also prosecutors who have to be at the table to ensure that we are righting the wrongs of the past.”

Foxx was the one to file the first expungement motions on December 2019. He wanted to start the process by proactively using the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. This law went into effect on January 1, 2020. Shortly after, the pandemic caused court closures that didn’t resume until later in 2020. 

At the time, some local police were not supportive of clearing cannabis convictions from people’s records. Kevin Graham, the President of Fraternal Orphel Lodge 7, which back then managed more than 10,000 Chicago officers, expressed opposition to releasing people from past convictions. “Even if the law changes, that does not change the fact that these people knew they were breaking the law, were arrested and convicted once again disregarding the hard work of police officers, who may have been injured while apprehending these offenders,” he said in 2019. 

Graham has resigned from that post in 2020. Graham was suspended for three years in 2020 after a hidden camera was left in Catanzara’s office.

Illinois has seen a lot of progress in its cannabis industry. This can be seen by the steadily increasing sales numbers. The Illinois Cannabis Industry saw its sales increase by more than twice the amount of revenue in 2021 compared to 2020. A report by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation stated that recreational cannabis sales in Illinois reached $669 Million in 2020 and $1,379 088,278 for 2021.