Today, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Though the bill does not officially come into effect until January 1, 2020, it will become legally accessible and “clear the cannabis-related records of nonviolent offenders.”
The bill will allow Americans 21+ to legally purchase cannabis from dispensaries throughout the state. Unlike some states that have already legalized the plant, Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker, went even further to ensure that the state’s legalization would simultaneously expunge the records of those arrested with possession.
The Governor is also helping to fight cannabis gentrification, by helping minority communities participate and financially benefit in the business.
When signing the bill, Pritzker acknowledged that while black and white citizens used marijuana at the same rate, black people were at a much higher risk to be punished. “In the past 50 years, the war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities.”
Black Americans are almost 4 times more likely to be arrested and jailed for marijuana possession. According to the ACLU, marijuana related arrests account for half of all drug-related arrests in America.
While the stigma concerning the cannabis industry is lessening, the punishment towards people of color in possession of it is not. White Americans seem to be at the forefront of the cannabis industry, making millions of dollars, as people of color remain imprisoned for the same act at a much lesser degree.